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Children: Maintenance

Volume 462: debated on Thursday 28 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what definition the Child Support Agency uses of unfair and inappropriate when it decides not to recover debt owed by a non-resident parent. (143581)

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 26 June 2007:

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, what definition the Child Support Agency uses of unfair and inappropriate when it decides not to recover debt owed by a non-resident parent.

The 1991 Child Support Act, (Section 29) gives the Agency a discretionary power in the collection of child support maintenance, although the Agency does not have the power to write off debt owed by non-resident parents. In cases where the Agency decides not to recover debt the Agency must show that this decision is reasonable (rather than inappropriate or unfair) taking into account the circumstances of each case.

The Agency has issued guidance, for cases where there are exceptional circumstances and where the Agency would consider not collecting debt. The circumstances are not proscribed but do include, for example, terminal illness or death of a non-resident parent, parent with care or qualifying child, cases where the non-resident parent is in prison, hospital or residential care or where the parentage of the qualifying child is under dispute.

Unless there is a good reason not to do so, every effort will be made to ensure the non-resident parent fulfills their duty to pay child maintenance.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the proportion of the £3.5 billion debt owed to parents with care which was due to official delay or error. (143582)

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 26 June 2007:

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, what estimate he has made of the proportion of the £3.5 billion debt owed to Parents with Care which was due to official delay or error.

The Agency is unable to identify how much, if any, of the gross debt balance of £3.5 billion has been caused by official delay in processing a maintenance application.

In addition, if an official error is subsequently identified in a non-resident parent’s assessment, any outstanding debt is reassessed and adjusted as necessary.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many parents with care were affected by a fully or partially non-compliant non-resident parent in each year since 1997. (143591)

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

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 26 June 2007:

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, how many parents with care were affected by either a fully or partially non compliant non resident parent in each year since 1997.

The information that you have requested is only available in respect of cases rather than parents with care, a parent with care or non-resident parent may have more than one case. Information on fully and partially non-compliant cases is set out in the attached table.

The first year of the Operational Improvement Plan focused on the reduction of the Agency’s uncleared applications. The Agency has substantially reduced the number of uncleared applications, which are at their lowest level since comparable records began in May 1999. The second year of the Operational Improvement Plan, will focus on Enforcement which will include greater focus on improving case compliance.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

The volumes of nil and partially compliant cases with a positive liability: 1997 to 2007

Quarter ending

Nil compliant

Partial compliant

February 1997

115,500

57,600

February 1998

116,100

63,100

February 1999

137,000

78,000

February 2000

144,100

82,100

February 2001

131,600

85,700

February 2002

119,600

77,400

March 2003

107,400

88,900

March 2004

123,200

86,900

March 2005

145,200

98,500

March 2006

148,900

129,000

March 2007

170,600

142,400

Notes:

1. Compliance of a case is measured over a three month period. If a case was open and classed as a collection service case at the end of the period, and within the period money was charged on the case but no money was collected, then the case is classed as nil compliant. If some, but not all, of the money charged was collected via the collection service, then the case is classed as partially compliant. If all of the money charged was collected via the collection service, then the case is classed as fully compliant.

2. Data as at end of March has been used from 2003 onwards. Data as at end of February has been used prior to this, as information for March is unavailable.

3. Volumes are rounded to the nearest 100.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many deductions from earnings orders were (a) applied for and (b) successfully implemented by the Child Support Agency in each month since March 2003. (144786)

[holding answer 25 June 2007]: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive. He will write to the hon. Lady with the information requested.