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Waveney's child maintenance shame

PUBLISHED: 13:54 19 July 2010 | UPDATED: 21:56 01 August 2010

PARENTS in Waveney owe than more than £8m in child maintenance, a new report reveals.

The national table, publicised by the single-parent charity, Gingerbread, highlights Great Yarmouth as the regional blackspot: it is 15th worst in the national table with rogue parents owing £9.

PARENTS in Waveney owe than more than £8m in child maintenance, a new report reveals.

The national table, publicised by the single-parent charity, Gingerbread, highlights Great Yarmouth as the regional blackspot: it is 15th worst in the national table with rogue parents owing £9.317m.

But next in the region's league of shame is Waveney. It is 33rd in the national table of parliamentary constituencies with a total debt of £8.687m.

That puts it well ahead of Norwich South with £7.154m (143rd), Norwich North £6.174m (270th), North-West Norfolk £6,13m (273rd), Mid Norfolk £5.555m (349th); South Norfolk £4.629m (460th), and North Norfolk £4.392m (489th).

Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “Child maintenance is vital for children in separated families.

“We know from single parents this is much-needed money which pays for items such as children's clothes, school meals, trips and activities and childcare.

“Ultimately the responsibility for paying child maintenance rests with the non-resident parent, but the Child Support Agency (CSA) has to do its job, too, in collecting debts and enforcing payment.”

A CSA spokesman said its priority was to arrest the growth of arrears, which had been falling recently: in the year to March they were down from £3,783m to £3,761m.

He said that despite past attempts to overhaul the CSA system and remedy its long history of failings, the figures indicated there was much more work to do.

But he said: “The first responsibility must be with the parent, usually the father. If you have children you have a duty to care for them. I do appreciate there are a number of fathers who can't physically provide for their family but it is a small percentage.”

Waveney MP, Peter Aldous, said he had asked the CSA for an explanation of the poor Waveney figures and said if he was not satisfied with the reply he would be taking up the issue at ministerial level.

CSA cases he had dealt with during his first months as an MP had highlighted apparent injustices to both fathers and mothers, he said, and had raised serious doubts over whether the CSA was making correct decisions based on all the evidence.

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