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Parents failing to pay child maintenance should have curfew orders, says Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey

Curfew orders should be imposed on parents who are failing to pay child maintenance, a Suffolk MP has said.

Thérèse Coffey, who represents Suffolk Coastal, stood up in the House of Commons yesterday to speak on a debate regarding non-compliance with the Government’s Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

The CMS is the service through which a parent who does not live with their children contributes financially.

Therese Coffey speaking in the Commons.
Therese Coffey speaking in the Commons.

She suggested the Government should step up its efforts to enforce payments in cases where parents had the means to pay through measures such as mandatory curfews, along with restrictions on driving and passport use.

She said: “The Department has a number of ways to try to get paying parents to cough up, and we must remember that this is cash for the children.”

Across Great Britain, close to one million children are covered by CMS arrangements — about a quarter of the total four million who live in separated families.

A pie chart showing the parents who did not pay, and which authority they were from.
A pie chart showing the parents who did not pay, and which authority they were from.

The system is currently separated into two payment methods: through Direct Pay, where payments are agreed upon among parents; and through Collect and Pay, where CMS collects the money where parents are not able to arrange payments.

The latest Government data, which covers the three months leading to September 2023, showed a total of 78,677 parents in Great Britain either didn’t pay or only paid up to 60 per cent of what they were due — this is in comparison to 62,596 pre-Covid in September 2019.

In Suffolk, the number of such cases is 851 as of September 2023, with East Suffolk being the district with the highest number.

But the number of children who are not receiving payments could be much higher due to the Government not only not collecting any data on arrangements through Direct Pay, but also parents’ parent being able to have multiple CMS arrangements.

Ms Coffey alluded to a July 2022 consultation into improving enforcement powers through curfew orders, which would see non-compliant parents forced to use an electronic tag and remain at a specified place at specified times for a period of up to six months.

Although the consultation closed in August of the same year, the Government has yet to reveal its results.

Ms Coffey continued: “This is a simple thing, where people have the money and will not cough up the cash. I think we need to get on with curfew orders”