East Devon’s outstanding child support debt ‘worryingly high’ says national charity

PUBLISHED: 14:51 20 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:51 20 July 2018

Many parents in East Devon are struggling to meet child maintenance payments, acoording to new research. Picture: Getty Images

Many parents in East Devon are struggling to meet child maintenance payments, acoording to new research. Picture: Getty Images

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Almost half of parents who have their child maintenance payments controlled by the government in East Devon failed to pay in the first three months of 2018.

Newly-released figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that around 210 parents were due to pay support through the Child Maintenance Service in East Devon, but about 80 did not pay.

The charity for single-parent families, Gingerbread, said the latest figures for parents with outstanding child support debts are ‘worryingly high’.

Numbers provided by the government are rounded to the nearest ten. The DWP says that 36.9% failed to make their payments between January and March this year.

The proportion of parents failing to pay in East Devon is down from 44.3% over the last quarter of 2017.

This payment service, called Collect & Pay, is part of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), which was set up in 2012 to replace the Child Support Agency (CSA).

The Child Maintenance Service can calculate the amount of child support to be paid and parents can arrange the payments between themselves - a mechanism called Direct Pay.

In East Devon, 490 parents made Direct Pay arrangements over the first three months of 2018.

But in the cases where parents cannot do this or there is a disagreement about payment, the Collect & Pay service can collect and manage the payments between the parents.

Over the three-month period to March 2018, about 680 paying parents in the council required the intervention of the Child Maintenance Service.

Sumi Rabindrakumar, Research Officer at Gingerbread, said: “Sadly, we regularly hear from single parents whose children are not receiving the support they are owed even when using the Collect & Pay service. With £200 million child maintenance debt already built up under this specific service, excluding any debts for the many who don’t use Collect & Pay, there’s a real danger of the government repeating the failings of the previous Child Support Agency unless they act now.”

At the end of March 2018, two thirds of paying parents in the CMS were using Direct Pay and one third the Collect & Pay Service. Just 3% of paying parents used both services.

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