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Norfolk parents given maintenance cash warning

PUBLISHED: 18:00 06 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:27 02 July 2010

Victoria Leggett

Parents who fail to contribute to their children's upbringing have been told to pay up or face jail as figures revealed more than £50m was owed in Norfolk in child maintenance arrears.

Parents who fail to contribute to their children's upbringing have been told to pay up or face jail as figures revealed more than £50m was owed in Norfolk in child maintenance arrears.

Both the government agency which collects the money and a charity supporting single mums and dads condemned those who refuse to provide financial help for their youngsters, saying they were depriving their own children of essential funds.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, which oversees the Child Support Agency (CSA), showed just how many parents were refusing to pay up.

In December 2009, £52.4m was owed in child maintenance arrears by non-resident Norfolk mothers and fathers, who had been deemed eligible to pay.

Of that, £51m was owed by men and £1.4m by women - although the CSA said there was no evidence that fathers were any less likely to pay up than mothers.

The overall total had risen by £300,000 from £51.1m in March 2009.

The information, obtained by the Evening News, also revealed 2,180 of the county's parents - or about 20pc of all those on the CSA's books - failed to make a single payment between April and December 2009.

Over the past three years - since April 2007 - 1,330 mums and dads missed every one of their payments, while more than 1,000 have failed to make any contribution since April 2005.

The Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission issued a stark warning to non-resident parents.

Richard Percy, principle legal enforcement manager for Norfolk, said: “Parents who are able to, but fail to pay are depriving their children of essential money needed for their upbringing.

“For those parents who repeatedly refuse to accept their financial responsibility for their children, we make no apologies for taking firm and effective enforcement action - with the ultimate penalty being committal to prison.”

The CSA said, although in Norfolk child maintenance arrears had risen slightly, nationally the figure was dropping thanks to concerted efforts by enforcement officers.

Between April 2005 and December 2009, 1,180 Norfolk parents faced enforcement action with a 95pc success rate. That action can include taking deductions directly from earnings, bringing in bailiffs or a six-week prison sentence.

In addition, in 33 cases heard at Norwich Magistrates' Court so far this year the CSA has pushed for imprisonment - the most serious penalty available.

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