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This paper primary relates to the process in Great Britain; the separate scheme in Northern Ireland is described in section 6.

Post-2018 Write-off policy

Following a consultation, in 2018 the UK Government announced a new policy to bring £3.7 billion of child maintenance arrears accumulated under the 1993 and 2003 schemes within scope of a write-off programme. Of the £3.7 billion, the Government estimated £2.5 billion was owed to parents with care (c. 970,000 cases) and £1.2 billion was owed to the Government (c. 320,000 cases).

In deciding to take this approach, the Government said arrears had accumulated due to the “significant policy, operational and IT issues” of the 1993 and 2003 schemes. The consultation document also highlighted the costs associated with collecting the arrears and maintaining them on CSA IT systems,, and the relatively low level of collection expected (around £0.1 to £0.6 billion).

The resulting Strategy said that the Government would-write off in full the £1.2 billion owed to the Government. Between December 2018 and December 2019, £651 million of this debt was either adjusted or written off.

Writing off arrears owed to Parents with care

In December 2018, the CSA/CMS began writing to eligible parents with care to ask them if they wanted a last attempt to be made to try and collect the debt owed to them. The DWP has said that by December 2019 all eligible persons on the CSA computer system had been written to. 89% of contacted parents with care either did not respond to the letter or told the CSA that they did not want them to collect the debt. By the end of June 2020, 80,500 parents with a case on the CMS system have also been contacted (DWP, CSA: June 2020, October 2020).

Where the parent with care requests the CSA/CMS collects the debt, the service conducts checks to establish whether there is a realistic chance of its collection. If there is, the CSA/CMS contacts the non-resident parent. By March 2020, all 13,700 cases on CSA systems had completed the non-resident parent representation process and 98% of these cases were transferred to the CMS to collect the debt. These figures do not include cases which were already on the CMS system before December 2018. At June 2020, 14,800 CSA cases already held on CMS systems had started the non-resident parent representation process and 89% of these cases have been transferred for on-going attempts to collect the debt (DWP, CSA: June 2020, October 2020).

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