Last month the Government issued a press release which indicated that
new regulations can be expected, subject to parliamentary approval, in 2015
which will enable the Child Support Agency to share information concerning non
resident parents with credit rating agencies.
The effect of this is that non payment of child support may result in
a negative credit rating for the paying parent. This in turn may adversely affect
that parent being able to obtain a mortgage, credit card, mobile phone and
other forms of financial credit.
Whilst the exact circumstances in which this may take place are not
currently clear, it appears that the Agency will take this step when they have
obtained an order from the court, known as a liability order, which confirms
the funds are outstanding and paves the way for other enforcement action, in
addition to the above.
This seems to indicate that the Government does intend to get tough on
parents who do not pay child support. However, the proof is in the pudding and
the underlying question is whether the Agency will use this process. What has
to be remembered is that the Agency has had, for many years, fairly extensive
powers to enforce but has chosen not to use them.
The other point is, of course, that the sharing of information in this
way does not actually enforce payment. Its main function may, therefore, be the
deterred effect, alongside the threat to confiscate passports and ultimately
send to prison.
Whilst improvements have been made in recent years, the tendency of
the Agency has previously been to use its resources to collect child support
from those parents who are “easy” to collect from in order to boost revenue and,
in doing so, placed less emphasis on chasing after those parents, who do not
willingly pay, and who will be difficult to enforce against.
The new measure may just be another headline grabbing technique that
will, in practice, be little used and/or ineffective. What the Agency really
needs to focus on is those enforcement methods that actually result in payment.
It is this that matters to the child, and receiving parent, not whether the “ex”
will now find it difficult to obtain a mobile phone.