§ Mr. Morley
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether he has any plans to provide an incentive to absent parents to provide maintenance for their children who are living on benefits.421W
§ Mrs. Gillian Shephard
Absent parents, like all parents, have a clear legal responsibility to maintain their families wherever they can afford to, but in far too many cases that responsibility has not been fulfilled. No maintenance is paid for over three quarters of lone-parent families receiving income support. Income support for lone-parent families cost £1.9 billion in 1989–90.
As already announced, the Government are reviewing the maintenance system to see what changes need to be made to the way maintenance is awarded, and collected. A survey is under way to provide full and up-to-date information as a basis for deciding the best way forward. We are also examining systems in use in other countries to see what lessons can be learnt. We aim to bring forward proposals later this year.
In the shorter term we have taken action to improve the payment of maintenance under the current system. This includes a new clause introduced to the current Social Security Bill, under which DSS will be able to enforce a lone parent's maintenance order for her when payments are not being made in full, if she is claiming income support. This will ensure that prompt action is taken in all cases and will reduce the chance of the absent parent getting into the habit of non-payment.