North-east’s single parents set to miss out on £7.8m in child support arrears

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Single parents from the north-east have been told they will never get the £7.8 million they are entitled to after a government policy change.

There were 8,200 parents raising children alone in the region in December 2017 and they were owed a total of £28m in child maintenance never paid by the child’s other parent.

However, the UK Government decided to write off much of that debt under its compliance and arrears strategy after admitting its own system was failing.

New figures show 4,500 north-east parents’ claims were cancelled in 2018, meaning a total of £7,884,000 less was being chased by December 2018 compared with December 2017.

That represents an annual fall of £2,071,000 in Aberdeen (25%), £2,887,000 in Aberdeenshire (28%), £1,585,000 in Angus (29%) and £1,341,000 in Moray (32%).

The UK Government said there was no available data on how many of the cancelled cases were down to debt written off, but a spokeswoman added: “The reduction in the number of cases with arrears and the value of arrears is due to the start of activity to implement the compliance and arrears strategy.

“Some historic Child Support Agency debt owed to government was written off in September. In the December quarter, activity continued to write off debt owed to government.”

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It means 4,500 north-east single parents whose cases were cancelled could have lost out on up to £1,752 each.

One Aberdeen single mum of two, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s very frustrating to have to go without food so your kids can eat, knowing their dad pays nothing.

“For the government to give up on paying what he owes to my wee boys is a kick in the teeth for everyone.”

The UK Government claims the change was necessary because officers were spending more money trying to collect arrears than they were collecting.

New figures show it collected £55,000 in arrears in the north-east in 2018 – just over 2.5% of the total arrears owed.

Of that, £23,000 was collected in Aberdeen, £14,000 from Aberdeenshire, £6,000 from Angus and £12,000 from Moray.

As of December 2018, £6,054,000 was owed in Aberdeen, £7,537,000 in Aberdeenshire, £3,801,000 in Angus and £2,903,000 in Moray.

Kevin Stewart MSP

Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart told the Evening Express dozens of north-east residents had sought MSPs’ help in getting the child maintenance they are entitled to – and giving up on chasing arrears is not good enough.

Figures show £6m in arrears was owed to Aberdeen parents as of December.

Mr Stewart said: “It is absurd £6m is owed to parents in Aberdeen and the UK Government is allowing the only agency that can chase the money up to be toothless, weak, and taken advantage of.

“Too often I have constituents telling me the same story: Their former partner isn’t making payments and nothing is being done about it.

“Not only do families have to contend with missing payments to support their children, but now it appears they are being told the UK Government has partly given up.”