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Child Support

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of inviting existing claimants of child support to reapply under the new system; (95166)

(2) whether Sir David Henshaw has reported on the policy and implementation issues arising from his first report;

(3) when he expects to bring forward legislation to remove the requirement that all parents with care claiming benefit be treated as applying for child maintenance;

(4) when he expects to confirm details of the increase in child maintenance disregard;

(5) when he expects to publish the White Paper on the Child Support Agency; and when he expects to publish the responses to his consultation on the agency;

(6) what estimate he has made of the annual running costs of (a) two agencies in tandem and (b) three systems of claims in relation to handling child support cases;

(7) when the consultation on a possible charging regime for using the new child support system will (a) be established and (b) conclude.

We are currently developing plans for introducing a new system of child support. As part of this we are considering the most cost effective way of moving to, and administering, the new system, the level of the disregard, and the role of any charging.

We are carrying out an intensive programme of work to determine the way forward and plan to publish detailed proposals in a White Paper later this year. This will include details of the responses to the consultation which ended on 18 September.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in what proportion of Child Support Agency cases non-resident parents who owe maintenance have (a) made no payments in the last six months; and (b) never made any payments. (87545)

The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the chief executive. He will write to the hon. Gentleman with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 7 November 2006:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in what proportion of Child Support Agency cases non-resident parents who owe maintenance have (a) made no payments in the last six months, and (b) never made any payments.

In the six months to June 2006, 69% of cases where maintenance was due had either received a payment via the collection service or had a Maintenance Direct arrangement in place. 31% of cases had received no payments.

Unfortunately it is not possible to provide information for part (b) for the Old Scheme as the data only goes back to August 1995 and is therefore incomplete. However, in the month ending June 2006, the Agency had received payments from 74 per cent of cases on the new scheme where maintenance payments were due, via the collection service, or cases had Maintenance Direct arrangement in place. 26 per cent of current new scheme cases have never received any payments.

I hope you find this answer useful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the Child Support Agency will be closed; who the chief executive will be of the new agency; and if he will make a statement. (95995)

We are currently developing plans for introducing a new system of child support. As part of this we are considering the most cost effective way of creating and moving to a new organisation to manage future claims for child support.

We are carrying out an intensive programme of work to determine the way forward and plan to publish detailed proposals in a White Paper later this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will take steps to ensure that the Child Support Agency takes into account dividend payments for the calculation of child maintenance payments; and if he will make a statement. (97457)

In April 2005, we amended Regulation 19 of the Child Support (Variations) Regulations, which apply to the new child support scheme, following representations by hon. Members, to enable dividend income paid to directors who controlled a company to be taken into account, when the payment exceeded a value of £100 a week. We believe that this change is a sufficient recognition of dividend income.

We have no further plans to alter the way in which dividend income is taken into account in the current child support schemes.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment the Child Support Agency makes of the lifestyle of a non-resident parent and the expected level of income to fund that lifestyle to assess whether child maintenance payment is appropriate and commensurate with the non-resident parent's lifestyle and income. (97458)

In both the old and new child support schemes a parent with care can apply for a departure from or variation to the maintenance calculation in cases where the non-resident parent seems to have a lifestyle which requires an income substantially higher than the amount of income that has been used in the maintenance calculation.