£2bn owed by absent parents 'uncollectable'

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Indy Politics

Nearly £2bn owed by absent parents should be written off as uncollectable, according the organisation that will replace the Child Support Agency.

Unpaid debts have reached £3.8bn since the failed body was established in 1993. But the Child Maintenance and Equality Commission (CMEC), which will take over from the agency on Monday, believes that about half of that figure is not obtainable as the absent parents – mostly fathers – have proved impossible to track down.

Janet Paraskeva, the chair of the new commission, said the Government should allow it to write off £1.9bn of debt. "It's a question of resources," she said. "How much time and money do you put into finding someone who has disappeared? If you spend your money in that way, chasing one person, there will be lots of other people who you cannot help."

The Government has no plans to write off any of the debt but should it do so in the future, it would prove controversial with families still owed thousands of pounds in back payments.

Jenny Willott, the Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for work and pensions, said: "I have sympathy with the idea that they [CMEC] want a fresh start, but any decision to write off debt must ensure that families are not punished for the past errors of the CSA."

"We need a proper assessment of the money owed to families to ensure that writing off these debts will not lead to real hardship."

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