Government must get tough on absent parents who don’t pay

In the House of Commons yesterday, Jo Swinson MP called on the Government to crack down on absent parents who refuse to pay child support for their children.

While most non-resident parents willingly pay child support, there are some who refuse to make the payments to support their children. When the non-resident parent frequently changes jobs or moves house, or is self-employed and hides their true earnings, the Child Support Agency (CSA) is often unable to enforce payment.

Jo Swinson called on the Work and Pensions Minister to get tough on those who deliberately avoid paying child support, just as the Government is getting tough on those who avoid paying tax.

Commenting, Jo Swinson said:

“Time and time again I hear from local mothers or fathers in East Dunbartonshire who are having to support their children alone because an absent parent is refusing to pay them child support. While most parents will do whatever they can to support their children, there are some who will do anything to avoid it

“It is only right that, while the Government is clamping down on tax avoidance, it should also take action against those who avoid paying child support. I am pleased that the Minister agreed to consider my suggestion of using the tax system to enforce payment more effectively.”


Notes to editors:

The text of Jo Swinson’s question to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions appears below.

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): What steps his Department is taking to enforce payment of child support by parents who refuse to pay.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller): The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission has a range of enforcement powers that it can deploy to secure payments from parents who refuse to pay. However, non-resident parents are given every chance to pay their child maintenance, and only when they are deliberately non-compliant will the commission use these powers.

Jo Swinson: I thank the Minister for that reply. All Members of this House will have constituents who are not receiving the child maintenance to which they are entitled because their former partners are giving the Child Support Agency the run-around by changing jobs or the self-employed are hiding their true earnings. The Government rightly do not allow these people to avoid paying tax. Surely, therefore, HMRC data could be used properly to assess child maintenance liability. Alongside the Government getting tough on tax avoidance, will they get tough on child maintenance avoidance?

Maria Miller: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. She is absolutely right that this data can help particularly to ensure that individuals pay the money they are due to pay. Indeed, we will consider that under the planned revisions to the CSA’s IT system. I should like to reassure her that the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is already putting in place a number of other measures to ensure that we increase enforcement actions. Indeed, as a result of those measures we have seen a significant increase in enforcement actions in the past 12 months.

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