Hundreds of parents in Wigan failed to pay child maintenance during the latest lockdown
Charity Gingerbread, which supports single parent families, said if those owed maintenance and living in poverty nationally were paid what was due, three in five would be “lifted out of the poverty trap”.
While separated parents can agree a child maintenance arrangement, many use the Government’s Child Maintenance Service to calculate how much one parent should pay to the other for their child’s upbringing.
Parents can be forced to use the CMS’s Collect and Pay Service if they cannot agree a sum or someone has not kept up the payments.
Department for Work and Pensions data shows 279 parents in Wigan failed to pay any child maintenance through the Collect and Pay service between January and March
It means 29 per cent of the 965 single parents using this service, paid no maintenance over the three-month period.
The figures also show 29 parents only paid up to 30 per cent of what they owed their former partner, while 60 paid between 30 and 60 per cent of what was due
Across Great Britain, 42,000 parents did not pay any child maintenance they owed in the three months to March – 28 per cent of those using Collect and Pay.
The CMS is supposed to take money directly from someone’s earnings or their bank account if they try to avoid payment, and can eventually take them to court if necessary.
But between December 2020 and the end of March, overall arrears owed to children through Collect and Pay increased by £12.5m.
Victoria Benson, Gingerbread’s chief executive, said the CMS’s enforcement was ineffective.
She added: “The CMS allows non-paying parents to build up huge arrears with 42,000 parents not paying any of the child maintenance they owe under Collect and Pay.
“This means not only are single parents and their children forced to go without with many being pushed into poverty and debt, but it allows the continuation of economic abuse and control in abusive relationships.”
The paying parent must also foot a 20 per cent charge to use Collect and Pay, while the other sees four per cent being deducted from what they receive.
Ms Benson said these fees penalise the children involved.
“Children are going without as a result of these fees being deducted and it simply cannot be right that a government service is responsible for this,” she added.
But the DWP said the fees were intended to provide both parents with an incentive to collaborate.
A spokesman said: “The CMS puts children first, with their work securing £249m for British kids in the first quarter of 2021 as they use the full range of their powers to secure money from parents failing to face up to their responsibilities.
“The latest statistics show that a record number of parents are now paying over 90 per cent of what they owe.”
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, more parents are claiming benefits and therefore paying child maintenance as an automatic deduction from those
DWP statisticians said this has been affecting the compliance rate since April 2020 and is likely to continue to do so for some time.
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here and viewing our offers.