I have been contacted by constituents about the child maintenance system, and the Gingerbread campaign to improve it and get the Conservative Government to act to collect unpaid maintenance.
Child maintenance is money to which children are entitled and is a key factor in the fight against poverty. I am concerned that parents are now required to pay to use the Child Maintenance Service collection service whilst the evidence on arrears suggests that it is failing to deliver.
Gingerbread’s Maintenance matter's report was launched in summer 2016. It looked at the current performance of the Child Support Agency and that of its replacement, the Child Maintenance Service. The report highlighted that arrears across the child support schemes amount to almost £4 billion. Following the launch of the report, the Conservative Government stated that it was considering the report's recommendations and taking steps to implement powers to recover child maintenance arrears from joint bank accounts. The Conservative Government conducted a consultation on this specific measure in the summer but has still not published its response.
The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the Child Maintenance Service. The Committee is examining its effectiveness in ensuring regular payments for children, and will consider recommendations to improve the service overall. I know that the Chair of the Committee has said that the current maintenance system appears to be failing parents in receiving regular payments. I will follow the outcome of this inquiry closely.
Child maintenance is vital in providing children with essential items, such as food and clothing. With 3.9 million children living in poverty, we cannot stand by while maintenance arrears mount. The Conservative Government is failing in its duty to ensure that non-resident parents meet their responsibilities. My Labour colleagues and I will continue to support efforts to press for action.