Devon

Unpaid child maintenance in Devon amounts to £40m

More than £40m of child maintenance payments have been missed in Devon since 1993, figures have revealed.

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, which provided the figures, said more needed to be done.

Tracey, who did not give her surname, said it was "disgusting" that her former partner owed more than £1,500.

The Child Support Agency (CSA) said "intensive action" was being taken against "irresponsible parents" who failed to pay financial support.

Tracey said her former husband, Dave, had missed payments for their four children and was now paying £20 retrospectively in addition to a £5 weekly maintenance charge.

'Constant battle'

She said: "It's just been a constant battle with the CSA to get any money and I feel the CSA don't chase them enough.

"Five pounds a week for all four children or £1.25 per child for a week doesn't even feed them for a day."

But Dave expressed a different point of view, saying: "I give in my wage slips and they [CSA] say this is what you've got to live on and this is what you can pay us. I've got nothing left over at the end of the month."

The CSA said nationally £3.8bn was owed in child maintenance with up to £10,000 owed in about 8% of cases.

Lucy Abell, of single parent charity Gingerbread, said: "We need the CSA to be very strong in their enforcement of payment because when parents separate both parents still have a responsibility."

Disqualified drivers

The CSA said it had increased the number of transactions directly from debtors' accounts - from 335 in 2009 to 1,055 last year, as a result of missed payments.

It also had the authority to disqualify drivers, with 40 losing their licences in 2011 compared to five in 2008,

In a statement the commission, which manages the CSA, said: "Last year the CSA collected more child maintenance in Devon than ever before - but the government recognises that more fundamental change is needed.

"We will continue to pursue all outstanding CSA arrears."

It added that reforms to the system were currently before Parliament which included providing people with free information before getting them to decide whether to make their own arrangements or use the state system for £20.

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