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Children: Maintenance

Volume 479: debated on Monday 29 September 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many individuals’ postal addresses have been disclosed by the Child Support Agency to their former partners; and if he will make a statement. (213819)

[holding answer 30 June 2008]: 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:

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 individuals’ postal addresses have been disclosed by the Child Support Agency to their former partners; and if he will make a statement. [213819]

It is not the practice of the Child Support Agency to provide details of an individual’s postal address to former partners. However, on occasion errors do occur and the Agency investigates each incident thoroughly and considers financial redress where appropriate. The Agency does not centrally collate records of these investigations.

The Agency’s records do show however that since January 2007, of the 1.3 million open child maintenance cases, the Information Commissioner’s Office have informed the Agency of just three complaints from our clients alleging unlawful disclosure. These complaints were investigated by the Child Support Agency and, where appropriate, consolatory payments were made by way of an apology for the inconvenience, worry and distress caused.

It is worth noting that there are also occasions where, with the consent of both parents, it may be in the interests of the child for the Agency to pass on contact details to either parent. The Agency is currently looking at how it can facilitate this transfer of information within the framework of the Data Protection Act.

The Agency takes the protection of personal information very seriously. If you have any concerns relating to a particular case, I would be happy to investigate and respond accordingly.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what steps are taken when child support payments are wrongly awarded because of faults in computer systems; and if he will make a statement; (221194)

(2) how many child support overpayments there have been due to computer errors in (a) England, (b) Wakefield District and (c) Hemsworth constituency;

(3) what account is taken of the financial situation of the families involved when Child Support Agency overpayments are collected.

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, 29 September 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 steps are taken when child support payments are wrongly awarded because of faults in computer systems; and if he will make a statement [221194]; and

How many child support overpayments there have been due to computer errors in (a) England (b) Wakefield District and (c) Hemsworth constituency [221214]; and

What account is taken of the financial situation of the families involved when Child Support Agency overpayments are collected. [221215]

Section 41B of the Child Support Act 1991 enables the Secretary of State to recover payments of child maintenance from the parent with care, where those payments are not validly made due to a computer fault or any other error, or where the non-resident parent has overpaid. In these circumstances, the Secretary of State will provide the parent with care with a written demand for repayment. In some cases, it may be possible to recover overpayments by temporarily reducing any ongoing maintenance due to the parent with care.

In the event that a parent with care is required to repay any overpaid child maintenance in accordance with Section 41B, the Secretary of State must have first considered the impact on any child affected by the decision. The Secretary of State may decide not to pursue recovery in the event that taking such action would have a seriously adverse impact on any child within the parent with care's household.

Information on the number of child support overpayments made due to computer error is not available.

I hope you find this answer helpful.