Figures collated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that there is £3.9 billion-worth of uncollected child maintenance payments outstanding, most of which may never be collected by the Child Support Agency.
BBC News reports that £2.9bn in unpaid child maintenance in the UK may never be recovered from parents in arrears who are referred to the Child Support Agency.
The Child Support Agency was controversial from its inception 21 years ago, with its launch hampered by IT problems and protests against incorrect assessments for child maintenance.
The agency was also tasked with tracking down errant parents – but many were not traced, leaving some parents without support from the absent parent.
In 2012, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) was introduced and it is reported that the new service does not consider tracking down the CSA’s outstanding debts “a priority”.
It is estimated that £1.3m parents are owed child support money, which the CSA should have recovered from an absent parent. Some parents have been waiting so long that their children are now adults and have left home.
The government has said that single-parent families with children who are still living at home are being prioritised by the CMS.
Single-parent charity Gingerbread believes that the government should continue to pursue parents who owe child support money to their families.
Janet Allbeson from Gingerbread said:
“If they do manage to get the money – even if it is years late – it can really make a difference to a child's life.
“It allows, for instance, to help with the cost of going to college – perhaps paying off a student loan – or helping a child learn to drive.
“Children in some ways get more expensive as they get older and that money can make a real difference to a child's future.”
Minister with responsibility for child maintenance, Steve Webb, told BBC News:
“We are quite clear that just because money has been owed for a long time, it does not mean it should be forgotten about – it should be paid.
“Of course everything cannot be a priority – we have been quite transparent… and we have made it clear that where there is a child still at school or being brought up, that is the first priority.
“But we are not writing off or ignoring old debt.”
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