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Children: Maintenance

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 11 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the (a) mean amount and (b) range of individual debts for which the Child Support Agency has obtained liability orders in each region of England was in each of the last three years; (250961)

(2) how many liability orders the Child Support Agency has obtained through the courts in each region of England and Wales in each of the last three years;

(3) how many liability orders were issued by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission and the Child Support Agency in each region in each of the last three years.

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system including the Child Support Agency. 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 Questions about the Child Support Agency and the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Child Maintenance Commissioner.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what the (a) mean amount and (b) range of individual debts for which the Child Support Agency has obtained liability orders in each region of England was in each of the last three years. [250961] and;

How many liability orders the Child Support Agency has obtained through the courts in each region of England and Wales in each of the last three years. [250964] and;

How many liability orders were issued by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission in each region in each of the last three years in respect of which its framework document states that he is accountable to Parliament. [256241]

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission took responsibility for the child maintenance system including the Child Support Agency from 1 November 2008. Neither the Child Support Agency nor the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission has the power to issue liability orders in respect of child maintenance debt; rather an application is made to the Court which grants the liability order.

The Commission routinely publishes Information showing the number of liability orders granted on a national level, in Table 21 of the Child Support Agency Quarterly Summary of Statistics (QSS). The latest version is available in the House of Commons Library or online at the following link:

http://www.childmaintenance.org/publications/xls/csa_dec08_tables.xlslnformation

The additional information you requested on the overall number of liability orders granted, the mean amount of the debt secured as well as the range of debts secured, is only available for each region from 2007. Therefore the information set out in the attached table covers the year from November 2007 to October 2008, the latest data available.

Liability Orders granted in England and Wales from November 2007 to October 2008

Region

Liability orders granted

Mean1 (£)

Minimum2 (£)

Maximum3 (£)

North East

1,500

4,300

0

54,000

North West

3,300

5,000

0

67,000

Yorkshire/Humberside

2,400

5,000

0

66,000

East Midlands

1,800

5,300

100

66,000

West Midlands

2,600

5,700

0

74,000

Eastern

2,000

6,100

100

80,000

London

2,000

7,100

0

69,000

South East

2,800

6,000

0

72,000

South West

1,900

5,400

0

68,000

Wales

1,300

4,800

100

65,000

1 Mean figures are rounded to the nearest £100

2 Minimum figures are rounded to the nearest £100

3 Maximum figures are rounded to the nearest £1000

Notes:

1. Liability Orders granted have been allocated to Government Office regions based on the residential postcode of the non-resident parent at the time of the court hearing

2. A small number of cases exist where the postcode is not recorded on the management information. As such, these can not be allocated to a region

3. Liability Orders granted are rounded to the nearest 100

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) on how many occasions the Child Support Agency has taken action to enforce a liability order in each region of England in each of the last three years; (250963)

(2) what steps have been taken to enforce liability orders issued by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission and the Child Support Agency in each region in each of the last three years.

[pursuant to the reply, 5 February 2009, Official Report, c. 1419W]: The reply to PQ 250962 was correct but incomplete. I would like to add that up to 1 November 2008, neither the Department nor its Agencies apart from the Child Support Agency used liability orders to recover debt.

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission took responsibility for the Child Support Agency from 1 November 2008. The Commission will therefore continue to apply to the Courts for liability orders in respect of Child Maintenance Debt. I have therefore asked the Child Maintenance Commissioner to write to the hon. Member with the available information on liability orders relating to child maintenance debt as requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions about the use of liability orders, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Child Maintenance Commissioner.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what enforcement action his Department and its agencies have taken to recover debts in respect of which they have obtained liability orders in each region of England in each of the last three years. [250962] and:

On how many occasions the Child Support Agency has taken action to enforce a liability order in each region of England in each of the last three years. [250963] and:

What steps have been taken to enforce liability orders issued by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission in each region in each of the last three years in respect of which its framework document states that the Secretary of State is accountable to Parliament. [256240]

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission took responsibility for the child maintenance system including the Child Support Agency from 1 November 2008. Neither the Child Support Agency nor the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission has the power to issue liability orders in respect of child maintenance debt; rather an application is made to the Court which grants the liability order.

The actions open to the Commission to enforce a liability order include referral to bailiffs, applying for a County Court Judgement Order, applying for a Third Party Debt Order or Charging Order, applying for an Order for Sale on the debtors property and referral to the Courts for further consideration of available sanctions at the Court’s discretion which include committal or disqualification from driving.

Information at a national level on the number of liability orders granted and additional enforcement action taken as a result is routinely published in the Child Support Agency Quarterly Summary of Statistics. The latest copy of which is available in the House of Commons library or on online at the following link:

http://www.childmaintenance.org/publications/statistics.html

The additional information you have requested on actions taken to enforce liability orders granted by the Courts in each region is only available from 2007. Therefore the information set out in the attached table covers the year from November 2007 to October 2008, the latest data available.

Actions taken to enforce liability orders in England: November 2007 to October 2008

Region

Number of actions to enforce liability orders

North East

1,600

North West

3,700

Yorkshire/Humberside

2,700

East Midlands

2,100

West Midlands

3,000

Eastern

2,200

London

1,900

South East

3,500

South West

2,400

Notes:

1. Actions include cases referred to bailiffs, where a County Court Judgment Order has been imposed, a Third Party Debt Order or Charging Order application made, or a referral for committal or disqualification of driving licence applied for or Orders for Sale applied for.

2. A small number of actions exist where the postcode is not recorded on the management information. As such, these cannot be allocated to a region.

3. Figures rounded to the nearest 100.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many representations received by the Child Support Agency were not opened as cases owing to the residence of the non-resident parent being outside the UK in each year since 1999; (254141)

(2) how many cases involving child maintenance payments were not pursued by the Child Support Agency owing to the departure from the UK of the non-resident parent in each year since 1999.

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, dated 11 February 2009:

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 Pension, how many representations received by the Child Support Agency were not opened as cases owing to the residence of the non-resident parent being outside the UK in each year since 1999. [254141] and;

How many cases involving child maintenance payments were not pursued by the Child Support Agency owing to the departure from the UK of the non-resident parent in each year since 1999.[254142]

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission's jurisdiction is limited to cases where the parent with care, non-resident parent and qualifying child(ren) are all habitually resident in the UK. However, there are exceptions if the non-resident parent is resident overseas but, for example, employed by the Crown, and therefore classed as habitually resident in the UK for child maintenance purposes.

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission holds limited information from 2004, relating to the numbers of cases maintained on the CS2 computer system where the non-resident parent is recorded as not being resident in the UK. The Commission therefore does not hold information on the number of applications that fail to progress as the non-resident parent is not resident in the UK. Neither is it able to identify cases where the non-resident parent is abroad but treated as being habitually resident in the UK for child maintenance purposes.

Such information as is available is set out in the table below, which shows the number of cases with a calculation recorded on the CS2 computer system where the non resident parent is shown as not resident in the UK and in how many of these cases maintenance has not been received in the previous three months.

As at December each year:

Non-resident parent abroad

No maintenance received

2004

9,800

3,400

2005

7,800

2,500

2006

6,700

2,200

2007

6,200

2,100

2008

6,900

2,300

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department has taken to enforce payments under child maintenance agreements by non-resident parents living outside the United Kingdom. (254143)

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 child maintenance, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Child Maintenance Commissioner.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps his Department has taken to enforce payments under child maintenance agreements by non-resident parents living outside the United Kingdom. (254143)

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission’s jurisdiction is limited to cases where the parent with care, non-resident parent and qualifying child(ren) are all habitually resident in the UK. Although there are exceptions if the non-resident parent is resident overseas but, for example, employed by the Crown, in most cases where the non-resident parent leaves the UK permanently, the Commission’s jurisdiction ceases. This means that the Commission is unable to enforce the payment of child maintenance in these cases, although where the non-resident parent has assets which remain in the United Kingdom, the Commission can take action to enforce any remaining debt in a particular case.

The Official Solicitor and Public Trustee is the authority in England and Wales responsible for the enforcement of maintenance orders overseas. The UK has reciprocal arrangements with more than one hundred countries, which enable maintenance obligations to be established or recognised and enforced if the non-resident parent resides in one of those countries. The parent with care may apply to a magistrate’s court for a maintenance order to be enforced overseas and procedures also exist to enable the parent with care to ask the foreign authorities to create an order for maintenance on their behalf. However this route cannot be used to enforce Child Support Agency debt that was incurred prior to the non-resident parent’s move abroad.

I hope you find this answer helpful.