‘One Third’ Dodging Child Support

Northern Ireland people owe the Child Support Agency almost £30m, with nearly 7,500 parents failing to make payments. Figures obtained by the BBC suggest at least one in three parents who should be paying child support are not.

Mary Quinn, the director of the CSA in Northern Ireland, has apologised for the agency’s performance. “It is just not good enough that some parents are going without out the maintenance they need to bring up their children,” she said.

“But I would also urge those parents to work with us to keep the lines of communication open. They should give us whatever information they can to help track down and secure payments from those parents who evade and avoid their responsibility.”

Information released under the Freedom of Information Act shows that although 20,537 people are supposed to make child support payments, more than one in three of them (36%) – 7,448 – failed to do so in the last year. This means families have been deprived of £29.9m.

Gingerbread, a group which helps single-parent families, said in a statement that it was not surprised by the figures. “It reflects the type of enquiries we’ve had from lone parents since the agency has existed – basically it means money isn’t getting to children who need it.

“That causes poverty – it traps lone parents on benefits and stops them getting into work, and lets non-resident parents away with their responsibilities of maintaining children.”

The CSA in Great Britain is due to be replaced next year by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. The Northern Ireland Assembly will examine the work of the agency in the next few months to see if it should follow suit.