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Children: Maintenance

Volume 478: debated on Monday 23 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what level of income is protected with regard to the recovery of Child Support Agency arrears via a deduction from earnings order; and what other limits restrict the extent to which such arrears may be recovered. (210923)

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 23 June 2008:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions 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 level of income is protected with regard to the recovery of Child Support Agency arrears via a deduction from earnings order; and what other limits restrict the extent to which such arrears may be recovered. [210923]

In new scheme cases the non-resident parent should be left with a minimum of 60% of net earnings after making child maintenance payments. This is set out in the Child Support (Collection and Enforcement) Regulations 1992, Regulation 11(2).

The protected earnings rate on the old scheme may also enable deductions up to 40% of net earnings, though this may vary from case to case as the figure takes personal circumstances into account.

The Agency has set a ceiling for each deduction from earnings order which ensures that the maximum deduction does not exceed 40% of net earnings, leaving 60% of earnings protected.

The Agency will consider imposing the maximum deduction through a deduction from earnings order where child maintenance arrears are outstanding and the non-resident parent does not agree an acceptable repayment schedule. The Agency is committed to collect more money for more children and get tougher on non-resident parents who avoid their financial responsibilities.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what factors are taken into account by the Child Support Agency when calculating the repayment of arrears.[Official Report, 30 June 2008, Vol. 478, c. 6MC.] (212802)

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

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 23 June 2008:

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 factors are taken into account by the Child Support Agency when calculating the repayment of arrears. [212802]

There are a number of factors to consider where child maintenance debt is outstanding and the non-resident parent is not able to offer full repayment immediately. Before deciding whether it is appropriate to collect arrears of child maintenance the Agency will consider the welfare of any child likely to be affected by an agreement. There is also a requirement for each parent to make adequate financial provision for their children which is a basic principle of the Child Support Act 1991. The actual negotiation process will establish the relevant facts, request further details where necessary and review representations made by the non-resident parent. The aim is to achieve the best possible agreement on behalf of all parties.

If the Agency cannot secure immediate repayment in full from the non-resident parent, it aims to reach agreements that will see arrears paid back within two years wherever possible. Before forming an opinion about accepting a repayment offer, the Agency will take into account the circumstances of the case and all other relevant considerations.

In some cases where an agreement cannot be reached which takes appropriate account of the welfare of the children affected, the non-resident parent's obligations and other relevant circumstances, it may be necessary to pursue recovery through legal enforcement methods. This is a key feature of the Operational Improvement Plan, launched in April 2006.

The Agency collected or arranged more than £1 billion in maintenance in the twelve months to March 2008, of which £126m was arrears. This is almost twice the £68 million of arrears collected in the year to March 2006 before the full introduction of the Operational Improvement Plan.

I hope you find this answer helpful.