Counting the cost of missing parents

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IRRESPONSIBLE parents missing from their children’s lives have been slammed for failing to pay millions of pounds to their youngsters.

More than £18m is owed to Fylde coast parents by absentee mums and dads, money desperately needed to help care for their children.

Now, work and pensions minister Maria Miller has pledged to take “tougher action” against parents who refuse to pay child maintenance.

Parents from Blackpool south are the worst offenders, owing £4.9m, with Blackpool north and Cleveleys in second with a figure of £4.5m, while in Fleetwood and Lancaster £3.1m is owed while £2.6m missing in Wyre and Preston North.

In Fylde the figure is £3.3m, and charity Home-Start Fylde helps parents in the area with children under-five who are struggling with child maintenance issues.

Pat Naylor, senior co-ordinator at Home-Start Fylde, said: “Not having child maintenance makes life a real struggle if you are talking about a lone parent.

“It is really hard, especially if that lone parent is not working, and there are number of families we work with who are struggling financially.

“I spoke to a mum recently who said finally the dad had been made to pay an amount every week and she looks a different woman.”

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Home-Start can help families by offering advice and support, as can Blackpool’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB), who said a key problem with missing maintenance payments is the drain on the welfare system.

Chief executive Marie Blackshaw said: “It is clearly in every child’s interest that maintenance gets paid, and if a parent is claiming working tax credits maintenance payments are disregarded.

“However, maintenance is taken into account fully for housing benefit, so if it isn’t paid the parent gets more help.

“Those parents might be better off (without maintenance) but the down side to that is the increased cost to the state.”

An additional £9.4m is owed to the Government by the Fylde coast’s absent parents, which includes punitive assessments imposed on parents who have failed to provide income details to the agency.

Ms Miller added: “These shocking figures underline the long- term failure of a system which has let down countless families.

“We are now taking tougher action against those who have refused to pay.”

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