GOVERNMENT ministers have pledged to step up their efforts to collect almost £15m worth of child maintenance arrears owed by parents in North Tyneside.
Work and pensions minister Maria Miller has promised to clamp down on irresponsible parents failing to support their children after separation.
Child Support Agency (CSA) figures for the North Tyneside parliamentary constituency show that £8,623,800 is owed in unpaid child maintenance arrears.
More than half of that – £5,432,500 – is money owing to parents caring for children, with the rest being owed to the government.
In the Tynemouth constituency, even more is owed – £6,850,000, £4,397,900 of which is owed to parents.
Some of the maintenance arrears date back to soon after the formation of the Child Support Agency in 1993.
Ms 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.”
Enforcement action has increased sharply in recent years.
The use of deduction orders – taking money directly from debtors’ accounts – has trebled nationwide since 2009, and the use of driving disqualifications for non-payment has risen eightfold since 2008.
Ms Miller said: “Separated parents can avoid the conflict that often comes with CSA involvement by making their own, family-based maintenance arrangements whenever possible.
“We’ve already committed £20m for developing better co-ordinated local support services to help them do that.
“It will help the new state child maintenance service to concentrate more effectively on parents who deliberately cheat their children out of financial support.”
The Government confirmed that it is committed to introducing further enforcement powers for use against parents who refuse to pay.