£3.7bn owed in child maintenance by absent parents

 

Absent parents owe £3.7bn in child maintenance but the agency in charge of securing payments only believes it can collect £1bn of that, a committee said today.

MPs said parents are frustrated at not being paid the right amount of money or any at all.

They also raised concerns that while aspects of the work of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) remained unacceptable, parents will be made to pay fees for the service in an attempt to fill a black hole in its budget.

That strategy for cost reduction is "high risk" because it is difficult to forecast how parents will react to being billed when they lack confidence in the system, according to the public accounts committee.

It urged the Commission, which plans to charge up to £20 in application fees, to demonstrate that it has a service which is worth paying for.

But MPs said the organisation has made real progress in recent years, with more money than ever before going to children, backlogs being reduced and a higher proportion of non-resident parents paying some child maintenance.

Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, also raised concerns about delays in a new IT system for CMEC.

She said: "I am concerned that the Commission's cost reduction plans seem to rely heavily on charging parents to use its services.

"The Commission must ensure that the introduction of fees does not end up making child poverty worse.

"Many parents are frustrated at the lack of support they are receiving, too often not being paid the right amount of money or any at all.

"It beggars belief that outstanding payments total some £3.7 billion but only £1 billion of that is considered collectible and less than half of that can be collected cost-effectively.

"The Commission has to reduce its costs by £117 million by 2014-15, and is already £16 million short. It is introducing a new IT system to try to save money but the system is already late.

"To meet the current timetable, the critical testing will need to be done at the same time as the system is being delivered, a recipe for failure in the case of many previous government IT projects. Every month of delay will cost the Commission £3 million - money it can ill afford to waste."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "We thank the Committee for its report and will carefully consider its contents before responding fully in due course.

"Child maintenance presents serious challenges which have tested successive administrations.

"The Government's fresh approach will encourage and support parents in making their own maintenance arrangements whenever possible - benefiting children, parents and the taxpayer."

A DWP spokesman said the application fee for the future child maintenance service will be £20.

Barnardo's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: "Barnardo's believes that no family living on or below the breadline should have to sacrifice a single penny of child maintenance to pay for administrative charges.

"We will continue to urge the Government to abandon its plans to pinch pennies from the poorest and most vulnerable families to access money to which they are entitled, and to enable them instead to preserve what little money they have for their children's food and clothing."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

DT teachers required for supply roles in Cambridge

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: DT teachers required ...

Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

PPA Cover Teachers Required in Doncaster

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Primary PPA Teachers required for wo...

Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering