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Child Support

Volume 455: debated on Monday 8 January 2007

Following publication of the child maintenance White Paper on 13 December, a formal consultation is now under way that will end on 13 March. A report will be published following the end of the consultation detailing the representations received. As of 5 January, we have received 49 representations.

I am grateful for that reply, but the reforms are rather late in the day. More than 750,000 child support cases remain unresolved, and £3.5 billion of debt is outstanding. How will the reforms improve a system that has been dormant for so long?

The hon. Gentleman should look at the White Paper, where he will find the answer to his question. The reforms will work in two ways. First, £120 million has been allocated to the operational improvement plan. The money is already going in, and improvements have been made. The backlog to which he referred, for example, has been reduced. Secondly, in the long term, the move to a system in which parents are encouraged to reach voluntary agreements on child maintenance, together with a more generous maintenance disregard for income support purposes, will produce a much more efficient and effective child support system, as well as one that is better administered.