More than 7,000 children in Greater Manchester missing out on maintenance money from parents, data shows

A national charity supporting single-parent families said the Government needs to take the issue far more seriously, saying it is currently too lax on the problem and children are living in poverty as a result.

Thousands of children across Greater Manchester are missing out on vital financial support as parents are not paying all the child maintenance money they owe, data shows.

Analysis by our sister title NationalWorld also shows that thousands of parents across the city-region are not paying the full amount they should be towards their children’s lives, and thousands are getting away with paying nothing at all.

Across Greater Manchester just over half of parents who are supposed to be paying child maintenance through government collectors are in arrears, while around one in three are not sending any money.

A national charity which supports single-parent families said the Government needs to get a grip of the situation, especially with the cost of living crisis gripping Britain.

What does the data show for Greater Manchester?

The data team at NationalWorld analysed parents on the “collect and pay” system, where the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) collects child support from the paying parent and passes it onto the receiving parent.

Within this system the latest figures show there are 4,816 parents across the city-region who are in arrears and owe anything up to 90% of the amount they are supposed to be transferring.

And there are 3,112 parents who are paying nothing at all.

That means that at least 7,690 youngsters across Greater Manchester are missing out on some of the child maintenance money that is supposed to support their upbringing.

In all 10 boroughs more than half of parents using the collect and pay system are in some sort of arrears. The highest proportion is 60.2% in Salford, while the lowest was 55.7% in Oldham.

The highest proportion of parents using the scheme who are paying nothing at all towards their childrens’ upkeep was 33.6% in Oldham, while in Salford it was 42.9%, the highest figure in Greater Manchester.

In both Manchester and Wigan, more than 1,000 children at least are missing out on financial support, with the figures for those two boroughs being 1,553 and 1,013 respectively.

The count goes up to the end of March 2022.

What has been said about the figures?

Gingerbread, a charity which supports single-parent families, said the current difficulties with the cost of living made it all the more important that children are receiving the financial support they need, with the risk of families not getting the money they are owed falling into poverty.

It said more action needed to be taken to ensure people who should be paying are doing so, describing the current approach as “lax”.

Gingerbread chief executive Victoria Benson said: “Research shows that 60% of single parent families living in poverty and not receiving child maintenance would be able to escape the poverty trap if they were paid the money they’re owed.

Parents have a legal and moral duty to contribute to their child’s upbringing whether they live with them or not and where this money isn’t paid willingly the Child Maintenance Service needs to step in. Child maintenance simply cannot be seen as optional.

“The CMS needs to use its powers to stamp out persistent non-payment and ensure that no child experiences hardship or poverty because their non-resident parent won’t support them financially.

"It’s about time this government and the Department for Work and Pensions took the issue of unpaid maintenance seriously. It’s shameful that so many children are forced to live in poverty as a result of a lax Child Maintenance Service and a disinterested government department."

What has the Government said?

The Government reiterated the importance of child maintenance being paid, while saying it recognised that many people are currently finding the financial situation tough.

A spokesperson said: “Child maintenance is an essential source of income for many lone-parent families, helping to lift 140,000 children out of poverty on average each year.

“Child maintenance is calculated so it is reasonable and affordable according to a paying parent’s income. Giving children the best start in life is the service’s priority, so parents who can afford to pay more must do so.

“The Child Maintenance Service got a record £1 billion to children of separated parents last year.

“We recognise people are struggling with rising prices and have continually taken action to help households by phasing in £37bn worth of support throughout the year. Eight million of the most vulnerable households will receive at least £1,200 of additional help.”

The Government said vulnerable families are also being helped by a £500m boost to the Household Support Fund to assist in paying for essentials.