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Children: Maintenance

Volume 486: debated on Monday 12 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what consideration is made of the implications for child poverty in second homes when debts to the Child Support Agency are enforced. (241925)

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system. I have therefore asked the Child Maintenance Commissioner to 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 Child Maintenance Commissioner as the Child Support Agency is now the responsibility of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what consideration is made of the implications for child poverty in second homes when debts to the Child Support Agency are enforced. [241925]

Child maintenance debt is owed by non-resident parents to their children as a result of their failure to meet their financial responsibilities. If the non-resident parent has a second family with which he or she lives the children of that family are taken into account in the maintenance calculation and the non-resident parent's liability is adjusted accordingly. There is an over-riding duty to consider the welfare of the child in child support law and this extends to the responsibility the non-resident parent may have towards any second family. The Child Support Agency also takes into account representations of hardship from the non-resident parent when negotiating an arrears arrangement.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much uncollectable Child Support Agency arrears has been categorised as (a) probably and (b) possibly uncollectable, broken down by debt analysis type. (242175)

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system. I have therefore asked the commissioner to 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 Child Maintenance Commissioner.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how much uncollectable Child Support Agency arrears has been categorised as (a) probably and (b) possibly uncollectable broken down by debt analysis type. [242175]

The Agency undertakes an annual debt analysis exercise based on a sample of cases, to estimate the amount of debt assessed as collectable, and that which is deemed either possibly, or probably uncollectable. The results of this annual sample exercise are subject to review by the National Audit Office as part of their audit of the Agency’s accounts. The estimate for the year ending March 2008 was published with the Agency’s 2008 Annual Report and Accounts in July this year. A copy of the Annual Report and Accounts can be found in the House of Commons Library or on line at the following link:

http://www.csa.gov.uk/en/about/publications-corporate. asp#AnnRep

The latest estimate is also routinely published in Table 22 of the Agency’s Quarterly Summary of Statistics, and has been set out in the attached table for ease.

It should be noted that classing a debt as possibly or probably uncollectable does not mean the Agency will not take action in the future to collect any outstanding money. The Agency will continue to make every effort to ensure parents fulfil their financial responsibility to their children.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

Child Support Agency

£ billion

Total gross child maintenance debt outstanding at March 2008

3.8

Of which:

Possibly uncollectable1

0.1

Probably uncollectable2

2.2

Collectable3

1.5

1 “Possibly uncollectable” debt refers to amounts outstanding which the debt analysis exercise revealed some uncertainty over whether it will be collected. The amounts are considered doubtful where, for example, payments have been infrequent or it has not been possible to establish an arrears agreement or impose a deduction of earning order.

2 “Probably uncollectible” debt refers to the amount outstanding which the debt analysis exercise revealed is likely to be very difficult to collect due, for example, to the lack of contact with, or the personal circumstance of, the non-resident parent. In many of these cases, the Agency has suspended recovery action until such time as the individual’s circumstances change.

3 “Collectable” debt refers to the amount outstanding which the debt analysis exercise revealed is likely to be collected. This takes into account factors such as regular contact with the non-resident parent, where regular payments are being made or an arrears agreement has been set up.

Notes:

1. Figures are taken from the Agency’s annual report and accounts and from table 22 of the Child Support Agency Quarterly Summary of Statistics.

2. Figures are rounded to the nearest £0.1 billion.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many uncleared Child Support Agency applications there have been in each month since May 1997. (242190)

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system. I have therefore asked the Commissioner to 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 Child Maintenance Commissioner as the Child Support Agency is now the responsibility of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many uncleared Child Support Agency applications there have been in each month since May 1997. [242190]

Information on the number of uncleared cases is routinely published in Tables 1 and 2.1 and the Summary and Target sections of the Child Support Agency Quarterly Summary of Statistics, the latest copy of which is available in the House of Commons Library or online at:

www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/csa.asp.

Table 1 provides the available information on old scheme cases, by quarter from May 1999, information prior to this date is not available. Table 2.1 provides the information requested for current and old scheme cases but not including cases cleared clerically, from March 2003 when the current scheme was introduced.

Under its three year Operational Improvement Plan, the Agency committed to reduce the number of current scheme applications to 90,000 by the end of March 2009. As of September 2008 the Agency had reduced the number of uncleared current scheme cases by 66% from 220,100 cases in March 2006 to 75,700 including cases cleared clerically.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many letters requesting payment of child maintenance arrears have been sent to non-resident parents by the Child Support Agency in each month in the last three years; (242191)

(2) how many requests for full settlement of outstanding arrears of child maintenance have been sent to non-resident parents by the Child Support Agency in each month in the last three years.

I have consulted with the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission who have confirmed that the information requested is not available.