Friday, May 1, 2009

Justifying CSA Enforcement Measures

Yesterday Janet Paraskeva, chairman of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission that assumed control of the CSA from the Department for Work and Pensions last November, put into context the tough measures going through the Lords to recover child maintenance. The Welfare Reform Bill, which received its second reading yesterday, would allow C-MEC to suspend the driving licences and passports of persistent non-payers.

By the time the Child Support Agency (CSA) seeks the withdrawal of a parent’s driving licence under existing powers, the ordinary tools of CSA enforcement — deduction from earnings orders, civil liability orders, the bailiffs — will already have been exhausted. Days in court will have come and gone. In one recent case it took six years and no fewer than seven court appearances to separate one particularly evasive debtor from his driving licence.

These powers will shift the heavy procedural burden away from the State — which will already have satisfied the courts about the nature and extent of the liability — and towards the defendant. He or she will have to engage more promptly with the system or find life much less convenient.

On more than 900 occasions in 2007-08 hearings where the CSA applied for the most serious sanctions presently at its disposal — imprisonment or driving disqualification — on 695 occasions the defendants did not even turn up. That represented a fifth of all such hearings that year and a significant cost to the taxpayer.

The agency must, in these circumstances, endure further delay and the expense of taking out an arrest warrant to bring the defendant forcibly before the court. What a waste of public money and unnecessary further delay to the parent caring for the child without his or her maintenance.

We want to more effectively target the people, relatively few in number, who lie, move house, change jobs or put assets in the name of new partners in order to keep one step ahead of the law and avoid paying for their children.

More than 55,000 non-resident parents in Britain owe £30,000 or more in maintenance debt.

Full story Source The Times 30 April 2009


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