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Absent fathers owe kids pounds 46m; CHILD SUPPORT: Agency launches tough collection campaign.

Byline: By Mark Cowan

STAY-away dads in Birmingham and the Black Country owe their children a whopping pounds 46 million in maintenance payments, it emerged today.

New figures show there are about 14,000 families scraping by while waiting for their ex-partners to pay up for their children's upbringing.

Now the Child Support Agency is launching a get-tough collection campaign warning the 'can't pay, won't pay' parents to come forward before investigators came knocking at their door.

The Midlands enforcement team has been quadrupled to 600 staff to track down dodgy dads ducking their responsibilities and drag them to court or call in the bailiffs.

Between May 2006 and April 2007, court action in Birmingham resulted in 420 liability orders being issued, forcing absent parents to cough up.

CSA enforcement manager Mike Parker said people were prepared to go to "great lengths" to dodge maintenance payments.

But his officers were now working closely with other government departments to check people's addresses and earnings.

Defaulting parents could be forced to sell their homes to pay the debts.

Mr Parker said: "The message to non-resident parents is to act now or we will.

"If they know they have got a debt to their children that needs paying they should take this opportunity to make contact with us. If they choose not to we'll make contact with them."

He added: "We don't want to take people to court - but we will if they don't comply."

It is estimated that one in three parents is failing to pay the correct maintenance, which is due until the child leaves full-time education.

According to figures, as of the end of June, the average absent parent in Birmingham and the Black Country owed almost pounds 3,300 to their children.

In the past year, a total of 13,365 cases, or 37 cases a day, were passed on to bailiffs and 13,000 cases, or 36 cases a day, were put before the courts.

In the 12 months to January this year, 40 people were jailed, 385 given suspended jail sentences and 35 people had their driving licences seized after being caught for non-payment. Every month, around 6,000 employers are instructed to take money direct from wages.

Billboard adverts will go up across the city to launch the Child Maintenance Enforcement Campaign. Posters will also be placed in gyms and pubs.

Earlier this year the CSA named and shamed dead-beat dads by publishing their names on the internet. The Government is planning to replace the CSA with a new organisation called the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

Parents who don't pay child maintenance can contact the CSA on 0845 600 2423 or visit www.csa.gov.uk
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Aug 28, 2007
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