New arrears figures for the Child Maintenance Service are “disappointing” says Gingerbread

Posted 6 November 2015

The first data released for the new Child Maintenance Service shows little progress on arrears.

New figures released for the first time [1] reveal that, less than two years after the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) opened its doors to all new applicants, £35m of arrears owed to children has accumulated [2]. Responding to the figures for the period August 2013 to August 2015, Chief Executive Fiona Weir said: “These statistics raise questions about how seriously the new CMS is taking the non-payment of maintenance owed to children.

“With more than half of ‘paying’ parents associated with the maintenance arrears [3], this is disappointing for a new service where there is a clear government commitment to ensuring that children receive their child maintenance payments on time and in full. When maintenance doesn’t arrive, it means bills can’t get paid and children end up going without.

“At a time when many single parents are facing tax credit cuts, high childcare costs and a range of other welfare reforms, the money separated parents pay to support their children matters more than ever.”

The figures come against a backdrop where a further £1bn of child maintenance arrears owed to children in existing Child Support Agency cases are going to be transferred to the CMS over the next three years for collection [4], raising questions about just how ready the CMS is to take on this load.

Fiona Weir added: “We call on the Minister to explain what steps are being taken to ensure that firm and thorough action is being taken to collect the money owed for children and that – when transferred to the CMS – existing CSA debts owed for children are not forgotten. This is money hard-pressed single parent families can’t do without [5].”

ENDS

Notes to editors

[1] DWP (2015) Child Maintenance Service 2012 Scheme – Experimental Statistics: Aug 2013 to Aug 2015 

[2] See Table 7

[3] 55,600 case groups are associated with arrears in the 2012 scheme (DWP, 2015; Table 7); this includes some who may not currently have arrears due to timing differences between when liabilities are raised and payments are due – it is not clear from the published data how many cases this relates to. 110,400 case groups have a current liability (DWP, 2015; Table 4); this may include some ‘arrears only’ cases, but the number is likely to be small given the scheme is only two years old and largely consists of new applications. A ‘case group’ consists of all cases associated with one paying parent.

[4] Under the DWP’s CSA case closure strategy, all CSA cases are being shut down in a three-year phased programme which began in January 2015.  See here.

Where parents with children choose to transfer to the new Child Maintenance Service for future maintenance, their existing CSA arrears will be transferred for collection to the CMS. See here.

[5] For an estimated one in five (19 per cent) of these parents receiving maintenance, their maintenance lifted them out of poverty.  (Kids aren’t free, Caroline Bryson, Amy Skipp, Janet Allbeson, Eloise Poole, Eleanor Ireland & Vicky Marsh, Gingerbread, Nuffield Foundation 2013 key stats).

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