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Sussex absentee parents owe £50m in child maintenance
More than £50 million in child maintenance is owed to single parents in Sussex.
Many lone parents say they are struggling to care for children without any money coming from their former partners.
Figures released by the Department of Work and Pensions showed £86,192,000 was owed in child maintenance in Sussex, with £51,815,100 owed to parents with main care of the child.
Jo Gurr, of the Single Parent Information Network (SPIN) in Sussex, said she was outraged by the statistics.
She said: “It is scandalous that people are able to get away with not paying what is owed.
“I am outraged and it is one of the things our organisation is trying to tackle.
“It is not just the difference of a bit of extra money.
“It can make a large difference to things such as buying school uniform.
“Single parents are struggling as they accept morsels and crumbs.”
Mrs Gurr revealed three quarters of parents who are members of SPIN get no maintenance at all.
She explained many do not want to antagonise an already difficult situation and so do not enter any formal agreement.
Even when child maintenance is sought, sometimes the other party hides their assets or lies about their income, Mrs Gurr revealed.
She added: “There is no help for single parents without having to pay for it.”
Fiona Weir, chief executive of national charity Gingerbread which supports single parents, said: “We hear time and time again from single parents who feel they have been left stranded by the CSA with no information about what action, if any, is being taken to chase the money owed to their children.
“At a time of real economic hardship for many families, this money is badly needed and could really make a difference to children's lives."
Gingerbread has called on the Child Support Agency to make greater use of its enforcement powers, give every parent owed child maintenance arrears a timetable and action plan for the steps the CSA will take to recover the maintenance owed for their child or children and keep parents owed maintenance informed, at six monthly intervals, of all enforcement steps taken during that period and the results.
Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller said: “These shocking figures underline the long-term failure of a system that has let down countless families. We are now taking tougher action against those who have refused to pay.
“All parents who are still owed CSA arrears can be assured that we will take all reasonable steps to recover this money for them.”