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Child maintenance: new steps to improve compliance and to allow arrears to be written off (UK excluding NI)

Published Thursday, August 9, 2018

This House of Commons Library briefing paper considers new measures confirmed in July 2018 to improve compliance and allow arrears to be written off for the statutory child maintenance scheme.

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Shortly before the “Child Maintenance Arrears and Compliance Strategy 2012 to 2017” expired, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) launched a consultation on a new strategy. In July 2018, the Government published its response to the consultation which took forward the proposals it had set out, but with some modifications.

The key measures announced in the July 2018 Government response are:

  • new processes and messaging to ensure clients are requesting variations for unearned income as early as possible in the life of a case;
  • notional income to be calculated from non-income generating assets;
  • permit deductions for ongoing maintenance at the flat rate from those Universal Credit claimants who have earnings;
  • allow deductions from welfare benefits where arrears have accrued but ongoing child maintenance is no longer paid;
  • deductions from unlimited partnership bank accounts;
  • disqualify non-resident parents from holding or obtaining a passport where all other enforcement action is ineffective;
  • allow more legacy Child Support Agency (CSA) cases where debt is owed to the person with care to be written off, subject to certain safeguards;
  • write off all CSA debt owed to the Government by non-resident parents.

The Government has said that these changes, along with the power to write off sequestrated debt in Scotland and previously announced proposals to allow deductions from joint bank accounts, will be introduced during autumn 2018. Changes relating to welfare benefits which will be implemented at an (unspecified) later date.

These measures will complement the existing spectrum of collection and enforcement powers, more details of which can be found in a separate Library paper.

This note applies to Great Britain only (i.e. United Kingdom excluding Northern Ireland).

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7778

Author: Tim Jarrett

Topics: Child support, Children and families

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