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Tougher sanctions passed to recover unpaid child maintenance

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Stronger and quicker action will be taken against parents who are not paying child maintenance.

The measures include forcing through the sale of a property and taking away passports and driving licences for non-paying parents.

As part of the Child Support (Enforcement) Act, families will be paid faster as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be given power to use a liability order to reclaim unpaid child maintenance.

This will do away with the current process of applying to court and waiting up to 20 weeks for the process.

Essentially, it will allow the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to move quickly, ensuring that families are paid faster and to prevent any further arrears.

However, before going down the enforcement action route, the CMS has other options including collecting earnings direct from parents’ employers or different bank accounts.

Cross-party support for child maintenance law change

The CMS helps more than 900,000 children get the financial support they are entitled to and between March 2022-2023, it collected or arranged a record £1.2bn on their behalf.

Child maintenance payments help to keep 160,000 children out of poverty each year.

The Private Members Bill sponsored by Siobhan Baillie MP and Baroness Redfern received cross-party support before becoming law.

However, as the DWP further legislates this change, it confirmed it will continue to protect paying parents’ appeal rights so they can fairly challenge any decisions. The new law will apply to Great Britain although Scotland will implement the change separately.

It follows a recent investigation by the National Audit Office, which estimated that families who were without child maintenance arrangements between 2011/12 and 2019/20 nearly doubled from 25% to 44%.

Bill a move to strengthen authority

DWP Minister Viscount Younger of Leckie, said:” This is another step in our work to strengthen our powers and improve how the Child Maintenance Service supports children of separated parents.

“We want parents to collaborate where at all possible, but if the financial responsibilities to children are not being met, the CMS will help those in need.

“This new law will help speed up the enforcement process to get money flowing which ultimately will be for the benefit of children.”