Work and pensions secretary John Hutton today announced the publication of legislation to scrap the Child Support Agency and toughen action against non-resident parents who fail to pay maintenance.
Under the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill, the CSA would be replaced by a Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-MEC) at arm’s length from government.
The new system would allow parents with caring responsibilities on benefits, who are currently required to use the CSA, to set up private maintenace arrangements, allow C-MEC to take money out of people’s bank accounts when they do not co-operate with other collection methods and force non-payers to surrender their passports for up to a year.
The commission will also be able to seek powers to put non-paying parents under curfew, for up to 12 hours a day for up to six months.
Hutton said the new powers would mean “non-payment brings real and lasting penalties”.
However, the Liberal Democrats criticised the proposals as a “gimmicky re-branding exercise” rather than fundamental reform.
Shadow work and pensions secretary David Laws said: “The CSA needs immediate wholesale reform moving its collection functions to the Treasury, who are far better placed to enforce deduction of earnings, and creating a transparent appeals mechanism.”