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Child Support Agency: Debt Collection

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 17 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many liability orders the Child Support Agency has applied for in each month since January 2003; how many of these were inaccurate in any particular; and how many were (a) withdrawn and (b) dismissed. (146178)

The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 17 October 2007:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions regarding 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 liability orders the Child Support Agency has applied for in each month since January 2003; how many of these were inaccurate in any particular; and how many were (a) withdrawn and (b) dismissed. (146178)

Such information as is available is set out in the attached table. The Agency holds information on; the number of liability orders it has applied for, the numbers subsequently granted as well as information on the numbers of applications withdrawn by the Agency pre and post hearing and the numbers of cases dismissed by the Courts. This information is recorded and validated on a yearly basis only. The Agency currently does not hold management information on the accuracy of individual elements of child maintenance cases such as the liability order process.

Information on a range of enforcement actions is routinely published in the Quarterly Summary of Statistics (QSS). A copy of this is available in the House of Commons Library and is also available on the Internet via the following link:

www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/child_support/csa_quarterly_jun07.asp

The Agency seeks liability orders in cases where the non-resident parent is failing to meet their responsibilities to maintain their children. In many cases, as the non-resident parent may not have co-operated fully in the assessment and calculation of their maintenance liability, the Agency will proceed on the basis of the information available. As the Agency will continue to correspond with the non-resident parent throughout the time taken for a liability order to be granted, the non-resident parent can at any time supply information which may lead to a review of the maintenance assessment, or indeed make payments to comply with the maintenance liability. In addition, in some cases the parent with care can request that any maintenance owed directly to them not be recovered, the Agency will then consider withdrawing the liability order application prior to the court hearing.

Once a liability order is being actively considered by the Court, the non-resident parent can make representations for the Court to dismiss the liability order. The Courts currently dismiss less than one per cent of applications. The Agency believes that this is a good indication of the robustness of the checking regime currently in place. Finally, once a liability order has been awarded, the non-resident parent can again bring forward additional information, or indeed settle their arrears and the Agency may again consider whether it is appropriate to proceed with the application.

It should therefore be noted that there are many reasons that the Agency may withdraw a liability order application, however the Agency currently does not record individual reasons an application may be withdrawn. The most relevant measure of the accuracy of the Agency’s process is therefore the low numbers of cases dismissed by the Courts, following representations from the non-resident parent.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

Applied for

Withdrawn pre-hearing

Dismissed

Granted

Withdrawn post-hearing

2002-03

5,540

202

69

2,383

2003-04

6,719

285

71

3,885

2004-05

10,483

467

16

7,760

199

2005-06

11,926

882

49

*11,245

262

2006-07

15,309

1,212

50

*13,335

232

Notes:

1. A liability order is a document obtained from the court showing that they legally recognise the debt. This is the same in both England and Wales, and Scotland and is required before the Agency can use litigation powers (Diligence in Scotland).

2. The figures marked with an asterix* are sourced from the Agency’s Quarterly Summary of Statistics. All other figures have been clerically collated and are actual figures, not subject to rounding.

3. Figures sourced from the Agency’s Quarterly Summary Statistics are rounded to the nearest five.

4. Robust information on the numbers of liability order withdrawn post-hearing is unavailable prior to April 2004.

5. Due to differences in the Scottish legal system, cases classified by the Agency as withdrawn pre-hearing are classified by the courts as dismissed.

6. It should be noted that for any period, the number of liability orders applied for will not directly relate to the number of applications granted as the process can take many weeks to complete. Liability orders applied for in one period may not be granted until the following period.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the total value is of the contracts the Child Support Agency (CSA) has with external debt collectors; how much has been paid to date under such contracts; with which debt collectors the CSA has contracts; how many cases they are handling; what the average debt outstanding on transfer to the external debt collectors is; how many cases they have successfully recovered outstanding debt from (a) in full and (b) in part; and what average sum has been recovered. (155937)

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

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 17 October 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 the total value is of the contracts the Child Support Agency (CSA) has with external debt collectors; how much has been paid to date under such contracts; with which debt collectors the CSA has contracts; how many cases they are handling; what the average debt outstanding on transfer to the external debt collectors is; how many cases they have successfully recovered outstanding debt from (a) in full and (b) in part; and what average sum has been recovered. [155937]

The Agency has a current contract with two debt collection agencies, Eversheds LLP and iQor. The contract with both of these debt collection agencies has been let on a commission basis and the final value of the contract will be dependent on the amount of debt collected by them. Up to 31 August 2007, the Agency has paid over £360,000 to the debt collection agencies under this contract.

As at 31 August 2007, the Agency has referred over 59,000 cases to the debt collection agencies with an average debt value of £5,250. Of these, the agencies have collected debt in over 12,000 cases, from which 2,003 non-resident parents have paid their child support maintenance debt in full, with the average collection being £444.

I hope you find this answer helpful.