Department for Work and Pensions
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Swifter sanctions on unpaid child maintenance

Parents who fail to pay child maintenance will face tougher sanctions faster after new laws were passed yesterday (20/07/23) to speed up stronger enforcement action.

Thanks to a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by Siobhan Baillie MP and Baroness Redfern becoming law, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be able to impose tougher sanctions on non-paying parents – such as forcing the sale of property and taking away passports and driving licences – through a quick and simple administrative process.

The Child Support (Enforcement) Act will see families paid faster as it gives DWP the power to use a liability order to reclaim unpaid child maintenance instead of applying to court and waiting up to 20 weeks.

This time and money-saving change will allow the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to act swiftly, paying families faster and preventing further arrears.

DWP Minister Viscount Younger of Leckie said:

This is another step in our work to strengthen our powers and improve how the Child Maintenance Service supports children of separated parents.

We want parents to collaborate where at all possible, but if the financial responsibilities to children are not being met, the CMS will help those in need.

This new law will help speed up the enforcement process to get money flowing which ultimately will be for the benefit of children.

Before escalating to this tougher enforcement action, the CMS has other options including collecting earnings direct from parents’ employers or different bank accounts. 

The CMS helps more than 900,000 children get the financial support they are entitled to and between March 2022-2023 collected or arranged a record £1.2 billion on their behalf. Child maintenance payments help to keep 160,000 children out of poverty each year.

The Private Members’ Bill received cross-party support, with both Houses recognising its importance in helping children have the best start in life.

Further Information

  • In the last 12 months (to March 2023), the CMS collected or arranged a record £1.2 billion for children of separated parents
  • There are now 905,100 children covered by the service – an increase of 11 per cent since the end of March 2022
  • As the DWP further legislates this change, it will continue to protect paying parents’ appeal rights so they can fairly challenge any decisions. The new law will apply to Great Britain although Scotland will implement the change separately.
  • Cases involving complex income or suspected fraudulent behaviour can be looked into by the CMS’s Financial Investigation Unit (FIU). For example, to recalculate and collect payments where parents might be declaring lower incomes but have money flowing elsewhere – like excessive pension contributions or company dividends.
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