Documents to download

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 the estimated £3.7 billion of child maintenance arrears accumulated under the 1993 and 2003 schemes within scope of a write-off programme. Of the estimated £3.7 billion, the Government calculated £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 Child Support Agency (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.

How much has been written off or adjusted to date?

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) states that between 18 December 2018 and 30 September 2020, “579,400 cases with non-paying historical debt have had the debt adjusted or written off, of which 169,000 were on the CMS IT system – system records showed the cases had a total debt value of £1,935.5 million, of which £853 million was owed to government only” (Source: DWP, CSA: data to September 2020, January 2021).

Debts can be adjusted because they were previously calculated or recorded incorrectly and can be written-off following a decision by the recieving parent not to request that it be collected or that the debt was below the eligibility threshold. The process and eligibility criteria are set out in sections 3 and 4 of this briefing. 

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 said that by September 2020 all eligible persons on the CSA computer system had completed the care with representation process and 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 September 2020, 112,100 parents with a case on the CMS system have also been contacted (DWP, CSA: September 2020, January 2021).

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 service 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 September 2020, 17,800 CSA cases already held on CMS systems had started the non-resident parent representation process and 82% of these cases have been transferred for on-going attempts to collect the debt (DWP, CSA: September 2020, January 2021).

Documents to download

Related posts