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Parents waiting five years for child support
Almost 35,000 single parents have been waiting more than five years for the Child Support Agency to resolve their claims, it has emerged.
New government figures underline the extent of the beleaguered agency's problems and help to explain why more than £3.5bn is owed in child support - overwhelmingly to mothers.
The evidence, released in response to a parliamentary question from the shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling, shows that 34,800 cases have been outstanding for more than five years.
"These people are often facing very challenging circumstances and it's a disgrace that the CSA cannot sort this out in such a long period of time. The fact that this might now change is absolutely no consolation to those people who have been left high and dry for so long," said Mr Grayling.
Ministers scrapped the CSA because it was judged to be beyond repair. But campaigners fear that the simplified system replacing it - which will encourage parents to reach their own arrangements, relying on the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission to tackle the toughest cases - could prove equally flawed.
They are concerned that separating couples may not be given sufficient help in drawing up agreements, and that parents with care may struggle to get the help they need to pursue non-payers. They are also worried about the amount of debt that will be written off.
The Department of Work and Pensions said the CSA has been tackling the cases and there were many reasons why they had not been cleared, such as the refusal of non-resident parents to pay up. In the past year 13,000 non-payers have had their cases passed on to bailiffs or have been taken to court, with 400 receiving immediate or suspended prison sentences.
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