The new Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-Mec) outlined by the Government yesterday adds new powers to those of its scrapped predecessor, the Child Support Agency (CSA).
‘Naming and shaming’ defaulters, the ability to directly take payment, confiscate passports and driving licences were all introduced, but the CSA’s £3.5 billion debt and failing IT systems is something C-Mec could without.
Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton estimated only £50 million would be "completely irrecoverable", after every power available had been used to recover the debt.
Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman David Laws told the Guardian newspaper the proposals were “daft gimmicks” and said: "This sends out totally the wrong message about the Government's determination to collect every penny due, and it looks like the Government is just determined to massage the figures to make them look better.”
In future, fathers’ name will have to be on the birth certificate unless deemed "unreasonable" as part of the changes.
The announcement comes after a turbulent Autumn for the now defunct CSA. In September the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) shelved a £140m IT benefits integration system shelves system after just three years.
The Benefits Processing Replacement Programme (BPRP), announced three years ago, was meant to save £60m annually by joining up the benefits payment more effectively.
The CSA was finally wound up in July after its £450m computer system failed to deal with the number of claims.