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Commons debates Child Maintenance Service’s performance in recovering payments

On Wednesday 2 October, the House of Commons held a Westminster Hall debate entitled "Performance of child maintenance service in recovering payments from absent parents", led by Peter Grant.

In reply to the speeches of members, Justin Tomlinson, on behalf of the government, explained the service's response to a failure of non-resident parents to pay child maintenance:

"Not only is there the annual review, but we now text the receiving parents proactively to ask whether there are any issues, and if there are issues, we ask that they should contact us immediately so we can either escalate ultimately to enforcement or move them on to the click-and-pay service. In the last quarter of last year, 9,000 people moved from direct pay to collect and pay. We are nudging that proactive level of support as quickly as possible.

"The shadow Minister ... talked of 33% not being collected on collect and pay. The 67% was the last published figure, in June 2019, which is up from 62% in the previous year, and the improvement has been long standing. The amount unpaid in June 2019 was £18.5 million, down from £22 million. That is £18.5 million too much, but we are heading in the right direction, through a combination of better training of our frontline staff, so that they can explain the options and potential punishments to both the receiving parent and the paying parent; better enforcement ... ; and the regulations that we passed to strengthen our ability to investigate and enforce."

Closing the debate, Peter Grant said:

"[F]irst, people do not need a clever accountant to hide their money; they only need an accountant who knows how to set up a private limited company, and it then takes years to find it. Secondly, we do not need to be Sherlock Holmes to find these scams; we only need a Facebook account, and then we can see the luxury yachts, the holidays, the umpteen fancy houses and so on. If somebody on benefits was boasting about their wealth to that extent, the DWP would have them very quickly. That is the speed at which we should be chasing down money from other people as well."

For the Hansard record of the debate, click here. For a House of Commons Library briefing paper prepared for the debate, click here. For a House of Commons Library paper looking at what steps can be taken by the Child Support Agency and the Child Maintenance Service in the vent of non-payment by a non-resident parent, click here. For the latest statistics from the Child Maintenance Service, click here.