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Child Support Scheme Faces Serious Concerns Over Accounting Practices, National Audit Office Report Reveals

A campaigner is urging the suspension of the Child Maintenance Service following calls for a full public inquiry over potential malpractice by senior politicians.

The auditor general of the National Audit Office (NAO) has raised concerns about the financial statements of a key account run by the CMS in a report released on Dec. 6.

The CMS sits within the Department for Work & Pensions and is responsible for managing financial support for children when parents live separately. Notably, questions have arisen surrounding its effectiveness in assessing paying parents and ensuring children’s primary carers receive funds.

The Client Funds 1993 and 2003 Child Maintenance Schemes Account (CMSA) is a financial mechanism managed by the CMS. The account handles funds related to child maintenance payments and tracks these financial transactions to ensure the appropriate distribution of funds.

The CMS inherited a legacy of over £3.7 billion in uncollected arrears from its forerunner, the Child Support Agency, based on the 1993 and 2003 CMSA accounts, in 2012. Doubts have also grown concerning the legitimacy of the inherited debt.

Auditor General Raises Concerns

In the latest 2023 Client Funds Account report, the NAO’s Comptroller and Auditor General, Gareth Davies, certified that the CMS’s financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2023, failed to properly present the Statement of Balances and its receipts and payments. He highlighted significant technical issues, stating that these financial statements do not adhere to the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000 and HM Treasury directions.

The NAO has refused to approve the CMS’s financial statements regarding the 1993 and 2003 CMSA in any of their year-end reports since the agency’s inception in 2012.

The report identifies an outstanding maintenance balance of £196 million as of March 31, 2023. Individual arrears balances were found to be misstated due to errors in historic underlying assessment calculations.

Noel Willcox, a political candidate for Reform UK and an advocate for the rights of mistreated paying parents, criticized the CMS, asserting that despite claims of addressing child poverty, the service provides little in tangible support for families.

Calls For Investigation Over ‘Systemic Misconduct’

In a separate revelation from the same 2023 Client Funds Account report, a cryptic line suggests that investigations into potential fraud within the Child Maintenance Service might lead authorities into uncharted legal territory.

Mr. Willcox has demanded an urgent police or National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation into what he deems decades-long systemic misconduct.

Former minister Ann Widdecombe called for a full public enquiry into the CMS back in September, doubling down on similar calls from Labour’s chief whip Sir Alan Campbell.

Richard Tice, leader of Reform UK, emphasized the potential detrimental impact on children and families, expressing concern about the unaccountable nature of government departments.

Issues Over ‘Fictitious Arrears’

In November, The Epoch Times reported that the CMS could be demanding money from paying parents without due process. The evidence centered on the CMS’s handling of income assessments and Current Income Checks (CICs), which evaluate the paying parent’s income for the previous month to determine the appropriate level of child support payment they must make.

Correspondence seen by The Epoch Times suggested that the CMS has routinely disregarded proper procedure. At the time, Mr. Willcox claimed that despite paying what was requested, parents often found themselves burdened with thousands in, as he termed it, “fictitious” arrears.

According to peer-reviewed data compiled by Brian Hudson, a businessman and campaigner for the rights of paying parents, figures on the mortality of paying parents reveal a concerning pattern among those in arrears with the CMS.

The DWP and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions have been contacted for comment.

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