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Child maintenance arrears: proactive use of part payment

Trial indicates that discussion of part payment in settlement of arrears is not cost-effective

Proactive discussions with non-resident parents of part payment in full and final settlement of any arrears of child support has proved to be an ineffective tool for recovering arrears.

The Department for Work and Pensions has published a report presenting the findings of a trial to determine whether such discussions with clients is a good tool to recover arrears owed to parents with care.

This trial tested both discussing the option of part payment with non-resident parents first and parents with care first. If the first party called was open to part payment the offer was put to the other party. Offers were passed between parties by the Child Support Agency until an agreement was reached or payment refused.

The trial established that proactive discussions of part payment are not an effective tool for recovering arrears. There was no significant difference in the number of cases with arrears paid, or the average value of arrears paid, between the control group and other cases in the trial. The trial cost £307,000, and therefore proactively discussing part payment is not cost effective.

The low rate of payment was due to a large number of cases being unsuitable for proactive discussions of part payment, unsuccessful contact for many clients, as well as refusal of part payment.

However, in a third of cases where parents with care were called first, the parent with care wanted the arrears owed to them written off, rather than further action taken to attempt to collect the debt.

For the report, click here.