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Fathers who don’t pay child maintenance to face tougher sanctions, Mel Stride says

Ministers will make it easier to confiscate passports, driving licences and wages from parents who refuse to pay child maintenance under plans announced today.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said he wanted to crackdown on “deadbeat dads” by speeding up the enforcement against those not paying what they owe.

Making it easier to confiscate personal documents will be a key part of the enforcement process.

It came as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt reiterated Government plans to impose tougher benefit sanctions for those out of work.

In his conference speech, Mr Stride took aim at parents who don’t pay child maintenance and vowed to accelerate sanctions by forcing the sale of property and confiscating passports.

Ministers will legislate to make personal savings, investments and property income part of the child maintenance assessment to make it harder for people to avoid paying.

And Mr Stride said he would scrap the £20 fee for the Child Maintenance Service under plans to reduce enforcement times from six months to six weeks.

“When deadbeat dads are shirking their responsibilities to pay child maintenance, it is the children who lose out,” Mr Stride said.

He went on: “I can announce that today we are starting the firing gun to fast-track the enforcement process without the need to go through the courts.”

“It’s also too easy for fathers to avoid paying up if their income isn’t coming through normal PAYE, so we will change the rules so that child maintenance calculations include a much broader range of earnings such as property income.”

He said passports and driving licences could already be removed for those who failed to pay, but added: “We want to go further, removing the barriers which slow this process down.

“Let me be crystal clear: if you are refusing to pay for your children, we will make you pay.”

Mr Hunt used his own speech to confirm plans to increase the national living wage for over-23s to at least £11 an hour.

He also said he would impose tougher conditions on benefit claimants who are not looking for work.

But government insiders did not specify any further details for how the tougher sanctions would be imposed.

The comments drew criticisms from charities who accused the Government of pushing a “divisive rhetoric” without any detail.

Becca Lyon, head of child poverty for Save the Children UK, said: “No amount of administrative tweaks and divisive rhetoric from the Chancellor will deliver the welfare reforms needed to help low-income families and the workforce. It’s a complete fallacy that people are actively seeking a life on benefits.”

She added: “The Chancellor also failed to point out that the majority of people on Universal Credit are in work, and those that are struggling to pick up hours are often facing childcare battles or have a disability or a serious health problem. “

Alfie Stirling, Chief Economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “The Government’s own research has shown that sanctions don’t work, and if anything can be counterproductive.

“It’s easy to ramp up the rhetoric about getting people back to work but the Chancellor’s words don’t match up with reality.

“The idea that there are hundreds of thousands of people choosing to get by on benefits that don’t even allow them to afford all the essentials reveals how out of touch this government is with the hardship afflicting families around the country.”

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