Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department for Work and Pensions

  Please find enclosed supplementary information following the hearing of 5 February on child maintenance reform as well as responses to the Committee's additional questions.

Please provide details of proposals for sanctions against mothers who refuse to name the child's father for the purpose of joint registration on the birth certificate. Also, what would happen if the mother simply does not know who the father is?

  At present, officials across Government are still working to develop detailed proposals for a process to require joint registration of births. Once we have some firm proposals, they will be subject to a public consultation process.

  At the heart of Government's concerns is the desire to produce a system that contributes to the ongoing welfare of children by making sure processes such as birth registration work from an assumption that both parents will be involved in the upbringing of their child. At the same time these processes need to safeguard vulnerable women and children. There is no question of penalising women who simply don't know who the father is. Current legislation imposes a fine of Level 1 on the standard scale (maximum £200) for failure to register a child's birth within 42 days. However, this is virtually never imposed as the aim of the registration process is to get births registered and prosecution of the parents would do little to achieve this.

What is the cost of administering the £5 child maintenance payment from NRPs who are on benefit?

  Deductions of Flat Rate Maintenance from a non-resident parent's benefit (currently £5 per week), via Jobcentre Plus, is an automated process and the cost of making such deductions is therefore minimal once the deduction has been established. Non-negligible costs only arise where there is a system error requiring manual intervention.

  Where the non-resident parent moves on and off benefit at regular intervals, more substantial costs do accrue in the recalculation and collection of maintenance.

The White Paper proposes a tolerance threshold of 25%. What are your estimates of the numbers of NRPs each year who would be eligible for an adjustment to reflect their incomes being higher than in the previous tax year if the threshold were set at 10%, 15%, 20% and 25% respectively?

  The proportion of employed non-resident parents who would be eligible for an adjustment since their income is higher than the previous year by the relevant amount is shown in the table below. Non-resident parents who have had a recorded income of zero or a benefit spell in either of the tax years in question are excluded from this analysis. We are looking to include those who have had a benefit spell in this analysis in the future and can send this at a later date.
ThresholdProportion of employed NRPs eligible for adjustment

If 65% NAO figure is old, what proportion of CSA liability orders are now incorrect?

  It is important to understand that the figure of 65% came from looking at a small number of cases, 58 out of more than 6000 liability orders granted in 2004-05, and noting every error, be that a procedural error, for example missing a deadline or mis-spelling a name, or a mathematical error in the liability calculation. Additionally, the monetary accuracy was measured to the nearest penny, unlike other parts of my Department where there is tolerance level. We have not routinely repeated this exercise.

  Of greater importance in terms of the way forward is that in the year ending March 2006 the Agency applied for almost 12,000 liability orders and only around 50 were dismissed by the court. Although a number of cases were withdrawn—largely due to payment being received before the case was heard—in that same year the court granted over 10,000 liability orders.

"The costs saved on a £50 maintenance disregard are £170 million.". What would be the equivalent figure for a full disregard?

  The equivalent figure is around £200 million.

John Hutton

8 February 2007

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