More than a million single parent families are owed £2,067 each in unpaid child maintenance by the Child Support Agency (CSA).
So says a recent report by the charity Gingerbread, who revealed that a total of £4billion is owed to single parent families across the country.
Communities in West Yorkshire, including Normanton, Castleford and Pontefract are the worst affected, missing out on £6.6million in child maintenance. But Milton Keynes South, Great Grimsby, Telford and Nottingham north are not far behind, with over £6million for single parent families there.
This only fuels existing criticism that the current CSA system is unfit for purpose, even though it’s going through a major overhaul to make it better – which will see it become the new and improved Child Maintenance Service.
First in the queue to hold the CSA to account is Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir who says, “The failure of the CSA to collect these millions of pounds of child maintenance means that children are going without and single parents are being left poorer.
Child poverty in single-parent families is set to double in the next four years, so it’s even more essential that this money is collected.”
Ultimately, when parents live apart, they still have a duty to support their children financially, to provide them a good and stable standard of living. Child maintenance is paid by the parent living apart from the child, to the parent providing the main day-to-day care.
Fiona points out that, “Bringing up children costs money. They need clothes, food and a warm home – both parents have a responsibility to contribute.”
However, the UK Government has been accused of failing to collect hundreds of millions of pounds in child maintenance arrears during its 23 years in service – which is owed to single parent families living in poverty.
Children living in single parent families are twice as likely to be living in poverty compared to children in two parent families, and this huge faux pas by the Child Support Agency will only make circumstances more difficult.
That being the case, a spokesman from the Department of Work and Pensions was quoted as saying that, “We actively pursue those parents who are not meeting their financial responsibilities and in almost 90% of cases, parents are paying the money owed. We have measures in place to ensure that no client will get lost when debt is transferred from the old system.”
Parents, you can call the Child Support Agency to check whether your claims are eligible.