Tory “tweaks” to the law forcing absent dads to pay child maintenance to their partners have been branded “completely useless” after only being used a handful of times.
Rules introduced in December 2018 to give the Child Mainteance Service fresh powers to disqualify parents from holding or obtaining a UK passport if they do not keep up with payments for their kids have been used only a total of seven times in the space of a year.
Marion Fellows MP slammed the new powers of the Child Maintenance Service after her questions showed how the compliance powers also allowing the CMS to deduct child maintenance from bank accounts using a “deduction order” have been gathering dust.
In the meantime the arrears run up by deadbeat dads who refuse to pay for their children have grown from £240 million in September 2018 to £315 million in September 2019.
Including debt transferred from the Child Support Agency, arrears now total over £1 billion.
At the end of September 2019 there were 78,500 parents who owed more than £1,000 in Child Maintenance Service arrears, according to written answers to questions by Fellows.
The SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw said that a failure to use the new powers was putting CMS on a path to another “multi-billion pound arrears write-off”.
Fellows said: “It’s clear that tinkering at the edges is failing children who should be at the heart of this process.
"Only a root and branch review of the CMS can ensure that all parents are treated fairly and children get the support they deserve and avoid another shocking multi-billion pound arrears write-off.”
Children’s charity Gingerbread revealed recently that if correct maintenance due was paid, one in five single-parent families could be lifted out of poverty.
Fellows added: “The Tory government’s tweaks to the Child Maintenance Service have proven completely useless, helping neither paying nor receiving parents.
"To make the system truly fit-for-purpose, and the Tory government must now use the powers already at its disposal to deliver for the children who need it most.”
A DWP official said: “The power to disqualify parents from obtaining or holding a passport is a powerful deterrent and we always expected numbers to be low, as it is intended for use in extreme cases.
“The amount of money being paid through the Child Maintenance Service is higher than ever before and we constantly review our service to deliver improvements, ensuring cases are managed robustly.”