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Children: Maintenance

Volume 507: debated on Tuesday 16 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in what (a) circumstances and (b) proportion of cases interest is applied to arrears owed by non-resident parents in cases managed by the Child Support Agency. (320377)

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system. I have asked the Child Maintenance Commissioner to write to the hon. Member with the information requested and I have seen the response.

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 in what (a) circumstances and (b) proportion of cases interest is applied to arrears owed by non-resident parents in cases managed by the Child Support Agency. [320377]

The CSA does not apply interest charges to maintenance arrears and has not done so since April 1995. Section 43 of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 extinguished liability for any interest outstanding from periods prior to April 1995.

There are however exceptions for enforcement cases when interest can be charged following registration of a liability with the County Court. Interest in these circumstances is not calculated under Child Support legislation, but under general rules applying to court orders. In practice, this is only applied in cases involving applications for an Order for Sale, where the CSA may apply to the court for any interest accruing between the date a liability order was registered with the County Court and the application for an Order for Sale.

As of 31 December 2009 the CSA was dealing with 1,213,100 live and assessed cases. Only Order for Sale cases with a secured debt balance in excess of £5000 have interest collected on them. As at 31 December 2009 the CSA had referred 342 Order for Sale actions, which represents less than 0.3% of the live and assessed caseload.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many absent parents in (a) Scotland and (b) the Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency are being dealt with by the Child Support Agency. (320797)

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system. I have asked the Child Maintenance Commissioner to write to the hon. Member with the information requested and I have seen the response.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about 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 how many absent parents in (a) Scotland and (b) Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency are being dealt with by the Child Support Agency.

Latest figures show as at December 2009, the number of cases in Scotland is 111,050; of these 320 are in the Parliamentary Constituency of Na h-Eileanan an Iar. These figures include old scheme cases with a full or interim maintenance assessment as well as current scheme cases with a full maintenance calculation or default maintenance decision. Figures are adjusted to reflect those cases administered clerically.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times the Child Support Agency (CSA) has imposed a sanction of (a) deduction of earnings orders, (b) deduction from bank accounts, (c) seizure and sale of goods by bailiffs, (d) registering a charging order against assets, (e) obtaining a third party order to freeze assets in the bank accounts to which non-resident parties are entitled, (f) disqualifying the non-resident parent from driving, (g) gaining a warrant committing the non-resident parent to prison, (h) applying to a magistrates’ court to impose a curfew for non-resident parents, (i) applying to the courts to search the non-resident parents against whom a curfew order has been made, (j) applying to the court to prevent a non-resident parent disposing of a property and (k) making administrative orders disqualifying non-resident parents from holding a driving licence or travel authorisation such as passports or both without the need to apply to the courts; and on what date the CSA gained the power to impose each type of sanction. (320870)

[holding answer 8 March 2010]: The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system. I have asked the Child Maintenance Commissioner to write to my right hon. Friend with the information requested and I have seen the response.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about 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, how many times the Child Support Agency (CSA) has imposed a sanction of (a) deduction of earnings orders, (b) deduction from bank account, (c) seizure and sale of goods by bailiffs, (d) registering a charging order against assets, (e) obtaining a third party order to freeze assets in the bank accounts to which non-resident parties are entitled, (f) disqualifying the non-resident parent from driving, (g) gaining a warrant committing the non-resident parent to prison, (h) applying to a magistrates’ court to impose a curfew for non-resident parents, (i) applying to the courts to search the non-resident parents against whom a curfew order has been made, (j) applying to the court to prevent a non-resident parent disposing of a property and (k) making administrative orders disqualifying non-resident parents from holding a driving licence or travel authorisation such as passports or both without the need to apply to the courts; and on what date the CSA gained the power to impose each type of sanction. [320870]

There have been 65,535 new deduction of earning orders/requests set up in England, Wales and Scotland in the 12 months to October 2009. Deductions of earning orders were a feature of the original Child Support Act 1991 and have been available to the CSA since its establishment in 1993.

In the period between August 2009 and October 2009, there have been 125 cases where a deduction order from a bank account has been sanctioned. Sanctioned has been interpreted as the application to freeze funds in the bank account of a non-resident parent. This power came into force in August 2009.

In England and Wales, there have been 17,730 distress actions (bailiff actions) in the 12 months to October 2009. In Scotland, in the 12 months to October 2009 there were 255 attachments. These powers were a feature of the original Child Support Act 1991 and have been available to the CSA since its establishment in 1993.

In the 12 months to October 2009, there have been 2,995 charging orders in England and Wales. In Scotland, in the 12 months to October 2009 there were 1,395 Bills of Inhibition. Charging Orders were a feature of the original Child Support Act 1991 and have been available to the CSA since its establishment in 1993.

There have been 2,025 third party debt orders to freeze assets in England and Wales in the 12 months to October 2009. In Scotland, in the 12 months to October 2009 there were 785 arrestments. Third Party Debt Orders were a feature of the original Child Support Act 1991 and have been available to the CSA since its establishment in 1993.

When the CSA commences court proceedings for wilful failure and culpable neglect to pay child maintenance the court decides what sentence shall be imposed. Of such proceedings started across England, Wales and Scotland, 820 resulted in suspended committal sentences and 40 committal sentences. This power was a feature of the original Child Support Act 1991 and has been available to the CSA since its establishment in 1993. There were also 70 suspended driving licence disqualification sentences and 5 actual driving licence disqualification sentences in the 12 months to October 2009. This power was introduced by the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000; and was brought into effect in April 2001.

Powers to apply to a Court to impose a curfew on a non resident parent, search a non-resident parent against whom a curfew order has been made, prevent a non resident parent disposing of property or using administrative orders for driving licence disqualification or travel authorisation have not yet come into effect.

Further information relating to the Agency’s use of enforcement powers is published in the Child Support Agency Quarterly Summary of Statistics (QSS). The latest copy of which is available in the House of Commons library, or via the internet at:

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

I hope you find this answer helpful.