Absent town dads owe £9m

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ABSENT parents in Hartlepool owe a whopping £9m in unpaid child support.

The town’s child maintenance debt reached £9,071,000 in December last year, up four per cent on the previous year’s figure of £8,743,000.

The figures were released on the back of Government plans to reform the CSA, and make parents who look after their children pay to track down their former partners.

The huge arrears date back to 1993 when the Child Support Agency (CSA) was formed.

And Hartlepool’s debt from last year alone reached a whopping £277,000 in unpaid cash for kids, with almost a quarter of absent parents not paying for their children.

Out of 3,170 cases on the CSA’s books from Hartlepool last year – some of which include a number of children in each case – just 1,990 children received the money they are owed.

In the 12 months up to December 2010, there were 3,230 cases but just 1,880 children benefiting from maintenance.

A spokesman for the CSA said: “We are always very eager and keen to make sure that we get this money back.”

If the plans to help mothers track down absent fathers are given the go-ahead, the parent who has care of the child will have to pay an up-front fee to use the service.

Then if maintenance payments do start, the CSA will charge the payer and the receiver a percentage – encouraging parents to set up their own arrangements so all monies will be given to the child.

Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller says the new system will help more children get the cash they are owed.

She said: “The sad fact is that half of children from separated families have no maintenance arrangement in place at all.

“A lot has been said in the last few days about charging parents who use the service, but our reforms are about much more than that.

“We ask the public to fork out £450m every year because it costs 40p to move £1 in maintenance from one parent to another.

“Cases that last from birth through childhood cost typically £25,000, and that’s without the cost of enforcement that can push this up to £40,000.

“And on top of this, we know the current set up is divisive, pitting parent against parent and still fails to get money from more than one-in-five parents. Complaints run at 20,000 every year.

“This whole system is long overdue for reform.

“I believe that if parents are paying something towards the service, then it must be worthy of that fee.

“Our reforms are a bold change that will for the first time mean families can choose – support to put their own agreements in place with no on-going charge through Maintenance Direct, or a revamped statutory service with a charge.”

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