Child support dodgers face repossession in new crackdown

Middle-class parents who dodge child support payments risk losing their homes under a new government crackdown to recoup outstanding debts.

The Child Support Agency is targeting 950 parents and said it wants to ‘explode the myth’ that only those on lower wages were dodging their parental duties.

In cases where homes are required to be repossessed, the government plans to sell the property and use the proceeds to cover parents’ child maintenance debts. It is reported that as part of a clampdown in the last three months, around £2millio

has been taken out of the bank accounts of absent parents.

Many parents who dodge payments are earning above average incomes, according to the CSA, which reports that more than 90,000 of the 1.2million people on its register earn over £30,000 a year. And of the 6,000 who earn more than £80,000 a year, 1,000 are refusing to pay up. The average salary is £26,500. Ministers are also drawing up plans to make them pay court costs and other fees for taking action against them.

The CSA and minsters hope the crackdown will deter parents from dodging their payments and be fairer on taxpayers who currently pay 40p for every pound recovered because the cost of recovering money from absent parents is so high.

Irresponsible parents
Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller said: “Most parents want to support their children without interference from the state. But these figures show that there is still an irresponsible hardcore trying to avoid their legal duty to support their children.”

The Daily Mail reports that a source at the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Many of these are people on middle and upper incomes who wilfully withhold from their children money they can well afford.

“Some people will do all they can to avoid paying for their own children and chasing after them is expensive and time consuming. Our reforms will introduce a fine so if we have to spend time and money coming after you, you will be charged some of the cost.”

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DWP overpays £3.3bn on benefits

The Department for Work and Pensions overpaid some £3.3bn on benefits last year due to fraud and error, its 2010/11 accounts show.

The accounts – qualified by the head of the National Audit Office, the Comptroller and Auditor General – revealed this amount represents 2.1% of the department’s total £156.3bn spent on benefits administered throughout the year.

The amount overpaid breaks down into about £1.2bn lost to fraud, £1.2bn to customer error, and £800m to official error.

It also represented a £200m increase on the previous year – 2009/10 – when £3.1bn was spent but this amount constituted the same proportion of overall benefit expenditure of 2.1%.

Meanwhile, total underpayments in 2010/11 are estimated to be £1.3bn.

The National Audit Office said some benefits are prone to error and the department faces significant challenges in administering a complex benefits system in a cost effective way.

However, it added the government’s proposal to introduce a Universal Credit to replace some of the existing working-age benefits – benefits which have historically suffered from the highest rates of fraud and error – is an opportunity to improve.

National Audit Office head Amyas Morse said: “Ever since the Department for Work and Pensions began measuring fraud and error, rates have consistently remained at a high level. This has been most notable in the case of means tested benefits where evidence of entitlement can be difficult to verify or easy to get wrong.

“No system to administer benefits can ever be perfect but I believe that there is scope for the department to reduce fraud and error levels significantly. I therefore welcome its commitment to do so, as shown by the refreshed approach it intends to take to driving down incorrect payments.”

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