Hundreds of parents failing to pay child maintenance bills
PUBLISHED: 18:00 11 May 2019
More than 40 per cent of parents in North Somerset are failing to foot child maintenance bills.
Charity Gingerbread, which supports single parent families, says the current system is not sufficient to deter parents from underpaying or paying late.
New figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show around 510 parents were due to pay support through the Collect and Pay scheme in North Somerset between October and December 2018, covering 720 children.
The Child Maintenance Service is supposed to take money directly from these parents' earnings or their bank account if they try to avoid payments, and can eventually take them to court.
Despite this, 43 per cent had not made any payment in North Somerset.
Anant Naik, from Gingerbread, said: "These figures are a reality check for the Government and prove that the Child Maintenance Service is failing huge numbers of hard-working single parents.
"Our research has already revealed shortcomings in the system's design and functionality and that almost seven in 10 single parents are being let down by the Collect and Pay system, meaning they are left to support their children single-handedly.
"Collect and Pay charges must be scrapped for receiving parents, payment compliance must be much more closely monitored for strengthened case management, and transparent service standards should be introduced, backed up by rigorous training for staff."
The Child Maintenance Service, which agrees payment of child support with parents, can alternatively calculate the amount of child support to be paid and parents can make the arrangements themselves - a scheme called Direct Pay.
In North Somerset, 1,040 parents made Direct Pay arrangements from October to December 2018, covering 1,540 children.
At the end of 2018, two-thirds of parents paying child maintenance in Britain were using Direct Pay and a third the Collect and Pay Service.