Take child payments direct from fathers' accounts, say MPs

New body meant to beef up maintenance system spends 50p to collect each £1 as £4bn goes unpaid

All separated parents ordered to pay child maintenance should have the money taken directly from their bank accounts, a committee of MPs demands today amid new evidence that hundreds of thousands of youngsters are still being let down by the Child Support Agency.

Three years after a major overhaul of the agency, nearly £4bn in payments to families remains uncollected, a report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee says.

The recommendation, if implemented, would catch 142,300 absent parents who repeatedly refuse to pay maintenance for their children – a figure that has actually increased since the agency was given tougher collection powers.

But it would also ensure that many more youngsters who are short-changed because of weak financial arrangements do receive money. Half the three million children in separated families do not have effective financial arrangements in place.

The select committee says this problem could be solved by forcing all non-resident parents – research shows that nine out of 10 of them are male – to pay maintenance directly from salaries or bank accounts.

The agency was reformed in 2008, with a new body, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, given the job of chasing up payments and overseeing the CSA. The overhaul also encouraged parents who were on amicable terms to set up voluntary arrangements.

The commission was given tough new powers to penalise absent parents who repeatedly failed to pay, including taking money from bank accounts, seizing property and even prison sentences. A string of other powers – including curfew orders and seizure of passports and driving licences – has not yet been introduced, the report says.

It concludes: "The lack of a child maintenance agreement or failure to make due payments have severe financial consequences for families, producing a devastating impact on children's wellbeing.

"The most important aspect of any system is to guarantee that maintenance is paid in full and on time. Evidence shows that this would best be achieved if all non-resident parents were required to pay child maintenance through direct deductions from salaries or bank accounts."

Ministers, however, have warned that such deductions would place an extra burden on employers, making it more likely that the money would be drawn directly from bank accounts. This is likely to concern civil liberties groups because it would be applied to all non-resident parents, including the majority who pay on time.

A damning report five years ago found the agency was spending billions on administration, including heavily criticised computer technology. Today, the select committee says fundamental problems remain: while £1.1bn in maintenance reaches children every year, the new commission spends £572m on administering its collection service – a cost of 50p for every £1 collected.

Some £3.8bn owed by absent parents has gone uncollected: £2.8bn is unlikely ever to be traced because cases were more than 10 years old, individuals had died or parents no longer wanted the money.

Dame Anne Begg, the Labour chairman of the committee, said: "Successive governments have tried to reform and improve the child maintenance system without success."

The coalition government plans further reforms: a Green Paper this year proposes charges for using the agency to encourage parents to reach private arrangements. But the select committee, backed by Gingerbread, the charity that supports single parents, and the National Association for Child Support Action, is worried that charging would be punitive for families on low incomes because research shows they are less likely to reach such private arrangements.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice