Single parents in the UK are owed millions of pounds in child maintenance, a new study suggests.
Campaign charity Gingerbread claims that as much as £6 million is owed to such parents in West Yorkshire, Grimsby, Nottingham, Milton Keynes and Telford alone. The organisation maintains that the average amount of unpaid child maintenance is more than £2,000 per family across the country and that as many as one million households are affected.
The areas of the country with the lowest average maintenance arrears were London, Sheffield and the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland.
In a new report, Gingerbread suggests that the debts were the result of the Child Support Agency (CSA) doing less to enforce payments. The CSA is currently in the process of winding down as its work is taken over by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). This was set up to encourage parents to pay each other directly rather than go through the government.
Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said the CSA’s failure to collect outstanding child maintenance “means that children are going without and single parents have been left poorer”. Additionally, she expects child poverty among single parent families to double in the next four years if nothing is done to correct this issue.
Both the CSA and the CMS should be “doing all they can to ensure that families get the financial support they are owed” Weir insisted, adding that while they technically have the power to enforce such payments “in reality both are slow to act … and single parents are left shouldering the costs of raising a child alone”.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions claimed they “actively pursue those parents who are not meeting their financial responsibilities and in almost 90 per cent of cases, parents are paying the money owed”.
Read the full Gingerbread report here.
Photo by David via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.