§ Mr. Beggs
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what is the total value of moneys collected from absent parents contributions to maintenance from prescribed social security benefits which have been retained by the Child Support Agency to cover the cost of assessment and collection fees in each year since the Child Support Agency was established; 
(2) what is the average time taken to recognise failure by a Child Support Agency enforcement officer to obtain payment of assessment from an absent parent and to issue court proceedings to recover outstanding arrears and establish regular payments. 
§ Angela Eagle
The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Mrs. Faith Boardman. She will write to the hon. Member.
Letter from Mrs. Faith Boardman to Mr. Roy Beggs, dated 26 January 1999:I am replying to your Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the collection of fees and enforcement in relation to child support.As there are elements of child support administration which cross the boundaries between the Northern Ireland Child Support Agency and the Great British Child Support Agency I have consulted with Mr. Gerry Keenan, the Chief Executive for the Child Support Agency (NI) and provided you with information on both Agencies. I am not able to provide all of the information in the precise format that you have requested, but have provided as much as is available.The Child Support Agency (GB) is divided into 6 front line Business Units; an application to maintenance is dealt with by the Business Unit dealing with the geographical area in which the parent with care lives. Where a parent with care resides in Northern Ireland the case is dealt with by the Child Support Agency (NI). Where the parent with care lives in Northern Ireland and the non-resident parent lives in Great Britain the case may be referred to one of the mainland Business Units to carry out a face to face interview or to take enforcement action.The Agencies charged fees until April 1995 when following a legislative change the charging of fees was suspended. Clients are liable to pay fees charged between April 1993 and April 1995 and they continue to be collected.Fees were charged for both the assessment and collection services, chargeable to both the non-resident parent and the parent with care. Various categories of non-resident parents and parents with care were exempt from the payment of fees.Contributions to maintenance are only collected from Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based—introduced in October 1996); non-resident parents in receipt of Income Support were exempt from paying fees therefore neither the Child Support Agency (GB) or the Child Support Agency (NI) retain contributions to maintenance to cover the cost of fees.Where arrears of maintenance arise, the Agencies take a variety of actions to secure payments. If the non-resident parent cannot pay the full amount straightaway, we try to reach an agreement with them to pay the arrears in instalments, which is added to their weekly maintenance assessment amount.If a non-resident parent does not pay the agreed amount at the right time an Arrears Notice is sent; we will also try to contact the non-resident parent by telephone. If we reach an agreement, we would not ask the non-resident parent to pay more than 33% of their net income for child maintenance and arrears as long as they keep to the agreement. If a non-resident parent does not make or keep an agreement we can take up to 40% of their net income; if the non-resident parent is employed we will consider imposing a Deduction from Earnings Order. When a Deduction from Earnings Order is not suitable, for example where the non-resident parent is self employed and all voluntary methods have failed we then 291W consider legal action through the courts to secure payments of child maintenance. Very often the threat of such action is enough to ensure compliance.Throughout the debt management and enforcement process, non-resident parents are given every opportunity to make a voluntary arrangement to pay off their child maintenance debt. The majority do agree to make an arrangement and only in a very small minority of cases is legal action actually taken.The time taken between a breakdown in maintenance payments and taking legal proceedings is not measured. During 1997/98, the number of cases that were referred to Child Support Agency (GB) enforcement teams for litigation action was 17,833; it was only necessary to apply for 2,498 liability orders of which 1,353 were granted. In the first 9 months of this year the corresponding figures are 8,265, 2,911 and 1,424 respectively.The Child Support Agency (GB) measures its performance in securing maintenance against the target set by the Secretary of State; the target during 1997/98 was for £500 million of child maintenance to be collected or arranged for direct payment from the non-resident parent to the parent with care. The total achieved was £541 million—the portion that was collected by the Agency was £344 million.The Child Support Agency (NI) measures its performance in securing maintenance against the target set by the Minister for Northern Ireland; the target during 1997/98 was for £11.2 million of child maintenance to be collected or arranged for direct payment from the non-resident parent to the parent with care. The total achieved was £12.3 million—the portion that was collected by the Agency was £7.6 million.I hope this is helpful.