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Unpaid child maintenance soars by £25 million

20 February 2013
Unpaid child maintenance in the UK soared by £25 million to £3.837bn in the last quarter of 2012, reveal statistics published by the DWP today [1].

The government plans to close approximately one million existing CSA cases over the next three years, 70% of which have child maintenance arrears [2], and single parent family charity Gingerbread is raising concerns over the Child Support Agency’s commitment to collect money still owed to parents and children.

Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “The average amount owed to single parents and their children in maintenance arrears is £2,100 [3].  Ensuring that parents pay what they owe for their children is important, not only because unpaid maintenance can lead to increased debts, cut into savings and hit living standards for families struggling to raise children on one income; but also because, if collecting debts is not taken seriously, a culture of non-payment can flourish.  Despite government assurances that it is committed to ensuring that parents pay what they owe, the steady decline in the Child Support Agency’s arrears collection performance speaks for itself [4].”

The new statistics show that the proportion of parents paying child maintenance has declined for the second quarter in succession [5]. This is despite a generous definition of ‘paying maintenance’ used by the CSA, in which a parent is counted as ‘paying maintenance’ if at least one payment, of any amount, has been made in the last three months.

Not only has unpaid child maintenance jumped, today’s statistics also show that in the last nine months the Child Support Agency has taken less enforcement action against parents who don’t pay – this can include deductions from earnings and sums taken from bank accounts.

Fiona Weir continued: “Regular child maintenance paid week in, week out to children is incredibly important, and yet the CSA appears to be taking a relaxed approach by counting any payment in the last three months as a success, and now taking less action to enforce missed payments.  Single parent families need the government to collect the money that is owed and to take enforcement action where necessary.”

Single parents can find out more about the changes to the government’s child maintenance services at


Notes to editors

[1] Child Support Agency Quarterly Summary Statistics first release: December 2012

[2] See Impact Assessment accompanying Government consultation on CSA case closure and future charging,

[3] The average amount owed to single parents is £2,100.  In around 15% of cases the amount owed is between £5000 and £50,000 or above.  (Hansard 30/04/2012, col 1316W)

[4] CSA quarterly arrears collection performance has declined in recent years, dropping from a peak of £41.7 million collected in the quarter ending September 2008, to a figure of £28.1 million in December 2012.

[5] The percentage of cases where the non-resident parent is treated by the CSA as ‘paying child maintenance’ (i.e. has made at least one payment of whatever amount in the last quarter) has declined from 80.6% in June 2012, to 80.0% in September 2012, to 79.5% in December 2012. 

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