UK: Curfews proposed for parents who fail to pay child maintenance

Parents who refuse to pay child maintenance could face curfews, as Ministers plan new powers for the Child Maintenance Service.

The change is being considered as part of fresh proposals that will get more of the money that is owed to the children of separated parents.

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) collected or arranged £1 billion in child maintenance payments last year, operating as a crucial weapon in the battle against child poverty. Child support payments help lift around 140,000 children out of poverty each year.

Curfew orders would be another method of enforcement, alongside current powers which include passport and driving license confiscation and earnings deduction orders, to tackle parents who continually refuse to pay maintenance owed.

As an alternative sanction to prison, which is costly and prevents maintenance getting to children, curfews would act as a deterrent by restricting and disrupting non-compliant parents’ lifestyles, stopping them, for example, from going out for dinner, to the pub or going on holiday.

The curfews would be monitored by an electronic tag with an electronic monitoring service applying the tag, monitoring and making sure the parent complies with the rules of the tag. If parents fail to comply, the CMS would be able refer them back to court which might then extend the curfew order or impose a prison sentence.

DWP Lords Minister Baroness Stedman-Scott said:

For children in low-income households, maintenance payments can make all the difference, lifting them out of poverty.

We are not afraid to go after those parents who deliberately and repeatedly refuse to pay for their children.

Curfew orders are another step towards providing the CMS with a full arsenal of powers to make sure children get the financial support they need to have the best start in life.

This builds on a new powers introduced earlier this year to digitise all communications to parents and improvements to help the service trace the paying parent, calculate maintenance and enforce arrears more effectively.

The consultation is published here and closes on 12 August 2022.