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Children: Maintenance

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many orders for the confiscation of (a) driving licences and (b) travel documents were made by the Child Support Agency in (i) 2006-07 and (ii) 2007-08; (255878)

(2) how many applications the Child Support Agency made to the courts for the confiscation of (a) driving licences and (b) travel documents in (i) 2006-07 and (ii) 2007-08;

(3) how many applications from the Child Support Agency for the confiscation of (a) a driving licence and (b) travel documents were refused by the courts in (i) 2006-07 and (ii) 2007-08;

(4) how many served orders for the confiscation of (a) a driving licence and (b) travel documents resulted in the full payment of child support arrears in (i) 2006-07 and (ii) 2007-08.

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 Questions, 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 orders for the confiscation of (a) driving licences and (b) travel documents were made by the Child Support Agency in (i) 2006-07 and (ii) 2007-08. [255878] and

How many applications the Child Support Agency made to the courts for the confiscation of (a) driving licences and (b) travel documents in (i) 2006-07 and (ii) 2007-08. [255879] and

How many applications from the Child Support Agency for the confiscation of (a) a driving licence and (b) travel documents were refused by the courts in (i) 2006-07 and (ii) 2007-08. [255880] and

How many served orders for the confiscation of (a) a driving licence and (b) travel documents resulted in the full payment of child support arrears in (i) 2006-07 and (ii) 2007-08. [255881]

The entire system of child maintenance, including the Child Support Agency, is, as of 1 November 2008, the responsibility of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

Information on the number of enforcement actions undertaken by the Agency is published in table 21 of the Quarterly Summary of Statistics and is available in the House of Commons Library and online at:

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

Currently, under Section 39A of the Child Support Act 1991, the Commission may apply to a magistrates' court or sheriff to impose a sanction in cases where other legal enforcement action has failed. It is up to the courts to decide which, if either, of the available sanctions is most appropriate. Those sanctions are driving licence disqualification or a committal sentence; the courts do not currently have the power to confiscate travel documents in child support cases.

In the last two years the courts issued 505 suspended or full committal sentences, and 19 suspended or full driving licence disqualifications in relation to child maintenance cases.

The Commission may make representations to the court as to which sanction it considers appropriate in the circumstances but we do not keep a record of how many times, or in what proportion of cases, this right has been exercised. The courts issued four full driving licence disqualifications in 2006-07 and five in 2007-08. Of these, 66% showed an improvement in the debt figure owed, with two cases paying off the full amount owed to their children.

Sections 27 to 30 of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 enables the Commission to make an application to the court for a specific sanction. The available sanctions will be driving licence disqualification, imprisonment, passport confiscation or imposition of a curfew, the latter two of which will be new powers for the courts. These powers are not yet commenced.

The Welfare Reform Bill 2009 contains powers to enable the Commission, without application to the court, to disqualify non-resident parents who wilfully refuse to maintain their children from holding or obtaining a passport or driving licence.

I hope you find this answer helpful.