Demands a mother write off almost £18,000 for her children has been highlighted as yet another failure of the child maintenance system.
The Fife woman, whose children are now grown up, was asked to forget the massive debt despite the father being forced to meet unpaid tax due to HM Revenue and Customs.
Glenrothes and Central Fife MP Peter Grant said the case was among many in his constituency where families were let down by a “deeply flawed” system which led parents to give up pursuing money owed for their children.
He said: “I have dealt with cases where absent parents have tried to hide their income and the Child Maintenance Service leave it to the resident parent to produce the evidence that their ex-partner is effectively committing fraud against them.
“They use simple dodges that wouldn’t succeed in hiding their money from HM Revenue and Customs; they shouldn’t be able to use these dodges to hide it from their own children.
“Too many people feel as though the CMS are not working with them but are an obstacle to them.
“And far too often people decide to give up on their pursuit of the money owed to their children as they can no longer take the stress.
“There have been improvements since the days of the discredited Child Support Agency but the system is still deeply flawed and all too often it works against the interests of the very children it’s supposed to be helping.”
Mr Grant highlighted the parent’s case during a debate he secured in Westminster on the performance of the CMS, which succeeded the CSA, in recovering payments from absent parents.
A Department of Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “Our main focus is to collect money that’s owed to children who will benefit today.
“We have been very clear that this write-off process is a one-off and with tougher consequences in place for parents who fail to pay, we expect to collect around £1 billion in maintenance this year.
“Parents can ask us to review our decision and we will continue to pursue collection where there is a possibility of success and it is cost effective.”
New powers introduced for the CMS include removing people’s passports and taking assets into account, including property, savings, investments and self-declared income.
Request came after a 20-year pursuit
For almost 20 years the Fife mum badgered the Child Support Agency to pursue her ex-husband for money to support their two children.
Working two jobs to put food on their table and pay his debts, she relied on family and government hand-outs for school uniforms.
Meanwhile, the children’s self-employed father could not be traced by the then-Child Support Agency as he repeatedly changed jobs and moved house.
The woman said: “I heard years later he had a massive tax bill which they were chasing him for. The HMRC was hot on his case but the CSA wasn’t.
“No one was bothered that he had paid nothing for his children. If the HMRC knew where he was and got their tax back, why didn’t they pass that information to the CSA?”
When the CMS asked her to write-off the debt of almost £18,000 for her children, now aged 26 and 24, she refused.
There was a glimmer of hope when he was found but when he was told how much he owed he declared himself bankrupt.
The woman said: “There have been failings in this organisation for 20 years which have botched the whole thing up.
“The CSA wasn’t fit for purpose. I always said if anything came of it the money would go to my son and daughter but I don’t think they are going to get anything.”