Single parent campaign group Gingerbread have accused the Child Support Agency (CSA) of overestimating the rate of successful child support payments.
The CSA is part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and is charged with calculating and enforcing child maintenance payments. According to the statistics published in its quarterly report, 81% of non-residents are paying their child maintenance as ordered, but Gingerbread claims there are wide margins for error.
The DWP defines a child maintenance payer as being ‘compliant’ as long as any proportion of the stipulated payment is made. Thus, Gingerbread surmises, the 81% success rate may be artificially inflated, as parents who have paid only a small amount towards their child maintenance will be counted as if they have paid in full.
The CSA offers two types of service: one in which the non-resident parent has their payments calculated and collected for them, and one in which their payments are calculated but it is left up to the parents to sort out payment between them. This latter arrangement is called ‘Maintenance Direct’, and it is encouraged by the CSA as it reduces their costs.
At the moment, 21% of all cases where child maintenance is due are conducted by means of ‘Maintenance Direct.’ If the CSA were to introduce charges for collecting the payments, this percentage is obviously likely to rise, making the likelihood that parents will be able to evade payments even greater.
In response, the DWP told The Guardian: “We stand by the accuracy of our figures. What we are consulting on is providing more information, not less. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that, even compared with six years ago, hundreds of thousands more children are benefiting from payments being made in the CSA.”