Gingerbread response to National Audit Office investigation into closure of Child Support Agency

Posted 28 March 2017

Gingerbread welcomes new report investigating the closure of body previously responsible for child maintenance

Gingerbread welcomes the National Audit Office (NAO) report into the closure of the Child Support Agency, which confirms the concerns that single parents and the charity have raised in recent months. [1]

Today’s report paints a picture of a process that leaves both parents in limbo, unclear of what their obligations or entitlements are. Simply closing CSA cases is taking far longer than expected – just 33 per cent of cases with continuing payments have been closed, against an expected 50 per cent. [2]

NAO figures also prove a longstanding Gingerbread complaint that powers to enforce child maintenance collection simply aren’t being used with enough frequency. The DWP is prematurely pulling the plug on enforcement to recover CSA arrears, with a 69 per cent drop in deduction from earnings orders alone. [3]

With far fewer parents than expected applying to the CMS following the closure of their CSA case, there is a major concern that many have simply given up trying to collect child maintenance after years of frustration. [4] Gingerbread has consistently campaigned for a fairer maintenance system – a good start would be far better support for these families, to ensure children do not continue to lose out from the CSA’s failure to collect.

Janet Allbeson, senior policy adviser for Gingerbread, commented:

The government’s approach to winding down the CSA is a smokescreen for a desire to turn the page on the past. Too little was done in the past by the CSA, and now too little is being done by the new Child Maintenance Service to collect outstanding debts.

“The government says it is offering receiving parents a “fresh start” by suggesting they write off the debts their children are legally entitled to; but as the NAO point out, there is no parallel suggestion to paying parents that they too make a fresh start by paying off the arrears they owe.

“In light of the new report, we urge the government not to abandon CSA maintenance still due to single parent families, and to provide more clarity on progress. This is money that can make a real difference to children’s lives.