Parents owe millions in child maintenance in Barking and Dagenham

Irresponsible parents have failed to pay millions of pounds in child maintenance to their former partners in Barking and Dagenham, official figures have revealed.

Fathers and mothers who have been avoiding their financial obligations still owe a total of �4.8million in the Barking constituency and those in nearby Dagenham and Rainham are �4m down on their payments.

The government has pledged to track down the parents, who have also failed to pay �7m in contributions to the Child Support Agency, which deals with child maintenance payments.

Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking, said: “These figures are shocking. It’s a problem local parents raise with me every week in my advice surgeries and in the letters I receive. The government should be doing more to make people in arrears pay, especially so for women with children struggling to make ends meet.”

Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas said: “I see the effects of unpaid child maintenance at the sharp end, with parents and kids really struggling to get by whilst many of those responsible for bringing them into the world doing a runner and refusing to contribute to their upkeep.

“I think we should look to new ideas to recover the money. This situation has to be sorted out.”

The government said last week that officials had been authorised to go into parents’ bank accounts to claw back the cash.

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The government stressed the funds were being recouped with the co-operation of banks and only after parents had been notified.

Ministers are also considering introducing new powers as part of the crackdown, such as imposing curfew orders and even seizing passports to prevent parents from leaving the country.

Work and pensions minister Maria Miller said: “We are now taking tougher action against those who have refused to pay. All parents who are still owed Child Support Agency arrears can be assured that we will take all reasonable steps to recover this money for them.”

The figures, published on May 8, show that since the Child Support Agency was launched in 1993 parents in London have failed to pay almost �200m to their partners. They also owe a further �167m in government levies used to support parents.