PMQs: CALLS FOR ‘CRACK DOWN’ ON CHILD MAINTENANCE

26th June 2019

SNP MP CALLS FOR ‘ROOT AND BRANCH REVIEW’

SNP MP, Marion Fellows, today at Prime Minister’s Questions called for a “root and branch” review of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) and for a “crack down” on enforcement of payments.

Department for Work and Pensions figures released today show CMS arrears rose from £966 million to £973.4 million between December 2018 and March 2019 – an increase of £7.4 million.

Between the same months, £58.5 million was owed under CMS’s Collect and Pay service– where CMS monitor and pursue collections – but only £40.6 million was paid.

33% of cases under Collect and Pay have paid nothing. The remaining 67% can only be guaranteed to have “paid some maintenance”.

The UK Government introduced new measures, such as confiscating passports, in December 2018. But the DWP predicts that only 20 passports will be confiscated in the first year.

Last year, the UK Government wrote off £1.2 billion of historic CSA arrears and are seeking to wipe out an additional £1.3 billion instead of moving arrears to the new CMS.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“The UK Government has to crack down on enforcing payments to ensure children receive their maintenance rights. New powers are welcome, but when £973 million of arrears have built up under the Child Maintenance Service and are increasing, it’s obvious it requires an urgent root and branch review.

“Confiscating passports is a start, but it isn’t delivering maintenance payments. When charities like Gingerbread say maintenance can lift one in five children out poverty, there needs to be a will to act on the evidence. Even cases under Collect and Pay are not being enforced with millions in non-payment each month.

“We have heard stories from parents that the Child Maintenance Service is rife with problems, from calculations to enforcement to customer service. A full root and branch review is needed to ensure fairness for both parents, but ultimately it is the children who are losing out.

“We can’t allow another situation where the Tories allow billions in maintenance to accrue only to write it off. We need action.”