STRUGGLING parents in Kirklees are owed £26m in unpaid child support.
Regional figures, obtained by the single parent charity Gingerbread, show the amount that absent parents owe their ex-partners in money that should have been paid to the Child Support Agency (CSA).
Set up to make absent parents accountable for their children in 1993, the CSA was handed over to be run by the new Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission (CMEC) in July 2008.
The figures revealed that parents in Huddersfield are owed £6.9m and that the worst in the list of local constituencies was Dewsbury – which had £7,256,000 in uncollected debt.
Batley and Spen absent parents owed £7,033,000 and the debt in the Colne Valley was £5,563,000.
And in Calder Valley, which includes Brighouse and Elland, £5,979,006 was owed.
The levels of debt suggest CMEC has not shaken off the air of crisis that surrounded the CSA. Workers at the agency said the original complex assessment formula created such a backlog that absent parents were hit with huge arrears amounts as soon as their cases were opened, creating anger, resentment and a disinclination to pay.
Fiona Weir, chief executive of Gingerbread, said: “Child maintenance is vital for children in separated families. We know from single parents that this is much-needed money which pays for items such as children’s clothes, school meals, trips and activities and childcare.
“Ultimately the responsibility for paying child maintenance rests with the non-resident parent, but the CSA has to do its job too in collecting debts and enforcing payment.
“We want to help single parents caring for children take action to ensure their arrears are paid.”
Gingerbread says nationally, the child maintenance ‘debt mountain’ is £3,761m.Š
A spokeswoman for the CMEC said: “The Child Support Agency collected or arranged a record £1,141m in child maintenance in the year ending March 2010.
“Total payments and the number of children benefiting from them have increased by more than 40% since 2005.
“While the commission shares Gingerbread’s view that responsibility for unpaid maintenance rests ultimately with non-resident parents, it should be noted that CSA arrears have actually been falling recently. In the year to March 2010 they were down from £3,783m to £3,761m – an average reduction of £5.6m per month.
“Regrettably some parents go to great lengths to avoid their financial responsibility, but we do not give up on cases.
“In the last 12 months to January 2010, 114,400 new enforcement actions were taken. Some 500 properties are currently subject to Order for Sale action.”
You can contact Gingerbread’s free Single Parent Helpline on 0808 802 0925.
Are you struggling with the CSA? Contact us on 01484 437764