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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many parents have been found to have been
25 Apr 2006 : Column 1058W
avoiding paying the correct amount of child support in (a) Tamworth constituency, (b) Staffordshire, (c) the West Midlands and (d) the UK in each year since 1997. 
In reply to your parliamentary question about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the chief executive. As he is currently unavailable, I am responding on his behalf. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to your question. You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many parents have been found to have been avoiding paying the rightful amount of child support in (a) Tamworth constituency (b) Staffordshire (c) the West Midlands and (d) the UK in each year since 1997.We cannot provide the information at the requested constituency or county level. We have some information at West Midlands level, but only in relation to cases under the old scheme until 2003. All other data is given at GB level, as the CSA does not cover Northern Ireland cases.There are a variety of ways in which a non-resident parent could potentially avoid paying the right amount of child support. For example, an NRP could:
By refusing to provide this information they are preventing the Agency from performing a maintenance calculation/assessment and could thus be said to be avoiding paying the rightful amount of child support. Where a parent consistently refuses to provide this information, the Agency may impose an Interim Maintenance Assessment (old scheme) or a Default Maintenance Decision (new scheme). Information on the number of DMDs and IMAs imposed by the Agency is attached as Table 1.
Under-declare their income and assets. Doing this may result in the establishment of a lower liability for child maintenance than should otherwise have applied, had the NRP's true income and assets been declared. In this case the parent with care may then apply for a departure or variation (old and new rules respectively) from the standard formula, on the basis that the non-resident parent's lifestyle is inconsistent with the income they are declaring to the Agency. Limitations with management information means that the number of variations applied for is not available. However, the number of departures applied for is attached as Table 2.
Failure to pay the full assessed amount of child maintenance. An NRP who does not pay the full maintenance liability due to them is clearly avoiding paying the rightful amount of child support. The number of NRPs who do not pay the full liability for which they have been assessed is attached as Table 3 and 3.1, relating to GB and west Midlands respectively.
|Interim maintenance assessments (old scheme)||Default maintenance decision (new scheme)|
|Number of cases||Percentage of all cases with|
|Number of cases||Percentage of all cases with|
|200506 (to Feb 2006)||9,000|
|Percentage of non-resident parents who paid the full amount of maintenance (overall agency)|
New and old scheme
|Percentage of non-resident parents who paid the full amount of maintenance (old scheme)|
Mr. Plaskitt: On 9 February my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, announced that Sir David Henshaw will undertake a fundamental redesign of child support policy and delivery mechanisms and he will deliver his finding before summer recess.
My right hon. Friend also announced that we are making available an additional £120 million to the Child Support Agency to implement the Operational Improvement plan which introduces a number of measures to improve the compliance rate of non-resident parents. This plan is available in the House Library.
Child support debt is created by parents failing to fulfil their responsibility for their children. We will take quicker and firmer action against those who default on payment. We will employ external debt collection agencies to recover outstanding debt.
We will also improve our own debt collection and enforcement activity to ensure greater returns by using best practice from the private sector. Over 600 more staff trained and effective within the next year and staffing dedicated to enforcement activity quadrupled over the period of the plan through redeployment and restructuring.
There are many non-resident parents who seek to avoid payment of debt by evading the attempts of the Agency to contact them. We will make more use of information held by HMRC and credit reference agencies to track down those who owe money for their children.
We will significantly increase the number of non-resident parents brought before the courts through our increased focus on compliance and enforcement, utilising the existing range of sanctions available such as driving licence removal and imprisonment.
We have been increasing the number of cases where debt is secured through Liability Orders in the courts. We will continue to increase our efforts here, enabling us to seek the seizure of assets where appropriate.
Failure to pay child support causes real hardship for children. We will increase the awareness of this hardship among non-resident parents and the general public. We will work with the media and stakeholders to develop a campaign to make clear that failing to pay has real and lasting consequences for children.
Using debt collection agencies to recover more debt more quickly. Over £100 million more historic debt collected over the three years, although it should be noted that new debt will continue to accrue over this period.
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