Parents who fail to pay child maintenance could face curfews
The Department of Work and Pensions is considering imposing curfews on parents who refuse to pay child maintenance.
It is one of several new proposals put forward as part of the Child Maintenance consultation, with the aim of getting more of the money that is owed to the children of parents who have separated.
Under the proposals, curfew orders would be added to existing enforcement methods, which include earnings deduction orders and confiscation of the passports and driving licenses of persistent non-payers of maintenance.
A curfew order granted by the court would be monitored by an electronic tag, with a monitoring service ensuring the parent complies with the restrictions imposed.
An alternative sanction to prison, it is thought curfews would act as a deterrent to non-payment by disrupting the lifestyle of non-compliant parents, preventing them from going out to dinner or on holiday, for example.
If parents still refuse to pay maintenance owed following the imposition of a curfew order, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) could refer them back to court, which could then extend the order or impose a prison sentence.
In 2021 the CMS collected or arranged £1 billion in child maintenance payments.
In launching the Child Maintenance consultation the DWP made it clear that, while curfew orders will take account of a parent’s circumstances, it is determined to act against parents who “deliberately and repeatedly refuse to pay for their children”.
It cited the role maintenance payments play in lifting low-income households out of poverty and called curfew orders “another step towards providing the CMS with a full arsenal of powers to make sure children get the financial support they need to have the best start in life.”
However, in March 2022 the National Audit Office (NAO) published a report into the CMS that said “there remains much more it can do to improve the service”, highlighting “significant problems with its customer service, both real and perceived, that undermine trust in the service.”
With the NAO also expressing concerns at delays in enforcement, there are questions as to whether additional enforcement powers for the CMS are the best answer to the problems faced by many parents who are owed maintenance payments.
The consultation closes on 12 August 2022.
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