John Hutton announces bill to scrap Child Support Agency

    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.”

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