Arrears on a CSA case following the end of liability Non-resident parents may owe arrears to parents with care in existing Child Support Agency (CSA) cases, regardless of whether they apply to the new scheme. We do not intend to write those arrears off, subject to the introduction of new legislation, unless the parent with care specifically requests that we should do so.
Where an existing client applies to the Child Maintenance Service and the non-resident parent owes arrears in the existing schemes, we will seek to collect those arrears, alongside the ongoing new liability, after we have checked to ensure the arrears are accurate. While we expect to deal with most simple cases quickly, it may take up to six months in cases that are more complicated.
Any ongoing enforcement action on outstanding arrears will continue during this period. If a Deduction from Earnings Order is recovering arrears payments from the non-resident parent’s salary, it will remain in place until we have validated the arrears balance and then transferred the case to the new Child Maintenance Service’s IT system.
From the point that we introduce charging, most non-resident parents will have the choice to pay their new scheme liability to the parent with care through Direct Pay. Similarly, once we have validated the arrears balance, any ongoing collection action on the CSA schemes will cease, and the arrears will transfer to the new IT system and be payable through Direct Pay as long as regular maintenance is also paid using this method.
Where payment breaks down prior to the arrears balance being validated and transferred, we will seek to immediately validate the arrears owed and then enforce payment of the ongoing liability and arrears within a matter of days. Where this is not possible, we will prioritise the collection of the ongoing liability, and seek to recover the arrears as soon as we have fully validated the amount owed.
The arrears strategy
The collection of child maintenance arrears is a priority for the Coalition Government. It is children who lose out when parents do not live up to their responsibilities.
We are determined to collect as much debt owed by non-resident parents
We commissioned an independent panel of experts to provide advice to the Government on how we might best tackle the issue of uncollected arrears.
We are considering the recommendations and will bring forward a strategy
in the coming months.
We are using all the powers available to us – for example, we are increasing the use we make of deductions from non-resident parents’ bank accounts and ‘orders for sale’ of their property.
We are also making innovations such as accessing wider sources of Government information to locate thousands of parents who have tried to avoid their responsibilities to their children.
The long-term solution will come with the introduction of the new scheme, which will bring greater automation and in turn, more alerts to quickly identify people who fail to pay. Once the new scheme is introduced, this will give us additional capacity to pursue effective debt collection.
However, we have to recognise that not all arrears can be collected. Much is very old and much is no longer actually wanted by the parent with care. We need to focus on getting money to those parents who have children now, and are therefore most in need of it.
As recommended by the arrears panel, we have consulted on introducing measures contained in previous legislation to allow the write-off of a limited amount of child maintenance arrears in specific circumstances; and to accept part payment as full and final settlement of arrears where the parent with care agrees. This consultation ran between December and March this year and the Government will respond to the consultation soon.
Again, as recommended by the panel, we have recently begun a trial, modelled on the approach used by the Australian CSA, in which we inform clients where we believe arrears cannot practically be collected. We will keep such cases under review, and reconsider whether or not the arrears can be collected based on any further information received from the client or from external data sources, including HM Revenue & Customs and credit reference agencies.
None of this undermines the Government’s commitment to tackle this issue. Failure to pay child maintenance is not an option. Parents need to face up to their responsibilities now.