Missing maintenance

Published on 24 May 2016

Summary

Child maintenance arrears stand at nearly £4 billion. The vast majority of this debt built up over the troubled 23-year life of the Child Support Agency, now closing down. Yet even under the new flagship Child Maintenance Service, which began work in 2012, nearly half of paying parents using the service owe unpaid maintenance.

Some debt is owed to children now grown up – ‘yesterday’s children’, in the government’s words. But Gingerbread is concerned that efforts to collect even debt to children today are still on the wane – particularly debt that accrued under the old CSA.

Key findings

  • The government expects in-built penalties to encourage payment and avoid arrears in the first place – but with arrears already accruing, more proactive action is needed
  • There has been a failure to take consistent and firm action to tackle determined non-payers for too long – a culture change is needed to show zero tolerance for non-payment
  • The government’s next arrears strategy must heed previous advice and propose a more effective approach to recovering child support debt – and show commitment to using enforcement powers