A WORCESTERSHIRE MP says the authorities are right to get in touch with parents who fail to pay for the support of their children.

This month, the Department for Work and Pensions is pursuing £40,000 of debt in Worcester County Court via charging orders on homes owned by five fathers.
The parents owe arrears ranging from £700 to £3,000, part of child maintenance debts of more than £1 million being pursued through the courts across the West Midlands. The Government is collecting as much Child Support Agency (CSA) debt as possible ahead of major reforms which start coming into effect next year.

Under Government proposals, reluctant parents will be required to pay towards the cost of taking expensive enforcement action, which costs the taxpayer about £40 million a year.

The CSA has the power to apply for driving bans and deduction orders – where money is taken from a parent’s bank account. Ministers also plan to deploy additional powers to remove the passports of parents who refuse to pay what they owe with consideration being given to entrusting this power directly to the CSA.
Worcester MP Robin Walker welcomed the changes. He said: “It is absolutely right where there are people who resolutely refuse to pay that we should come down on them like a ton of bricks. It makes sense to get tough.”
However, Mr Walker said there were cases “day in and day out” where the CSA had made mistakes or not followed cases through and made unreasonable deduction orders.
He said: “I see both sides of it – people who have been asked to pay too much and mothers who feel they are not getting the money that they are due.”

Mr Walker said sometimes the issue of fathers not paying had dominated the argument, but some dads who feel they are paying their fair share are being hit by huge bills for arrears where the CSA had made mistakes.

The DWP will invest £20 million to support parents to make their own arrangements in the best interests of their children.Worcester city councillor Neil Laurenson, who represents the Green Party, is a father-of-two. He said: “Yes people should keep to their responsibilities and pay their bills, but I would say the Government should be applying that standard to everyone. The Government is keen to stress people’s responsibility but they don’t show the same commitment to collect tax from various companies.”

The new penalty charges levied on non-resident parents who face enforcement action are proposed to be £300 if the Child Maintenance Service has to obtain a court order, £200 if a lump sum has to be taken from their bank account and £50 if money has to be taken from their pay.