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Non-paying parents may be tagged

BBC | January 3 2006

Parents who fail to pay child support money could be tagged, Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton said.

Mr Hutton said the idea was being examined as part of reforms of the powers of the Child Support Agency.

"I want to get tough with those dads who are not paying for their kids," he told BBC News.

A review of the Child Support Agency is under way after Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was "not properly suited" to its job.

Mr Hutton said he would make a statement to Parliament soon setting out how he plans to improve the CSA's performance.

Extra powers?

Mr Hutton's comments follow press reports suggesting his department was looking at imposing curfews backed by tagging to restrict the movements of absent parents.

Between April 2001 and last September, 27 absent parents were jailed for up to six weeks and 507 given suspended sentences over failed maintenance payments.

Existing powers to confiscate driving licences have been used only nine times in that time - mostly because of fears they could prevent people working.

We have got to enforce those responsibilities fairly and properly

John Hutton
Work and Pensions Secretary

Mr Hutton refused to go into details of how the tagging idea might work, but he said the government was looking at a range of options.

The CSA was already making more use of existing powers, he said.

He was now examining whether new powers were needed to ensure there was a "serious and credible threat for people who do not pay up that they will suffer an adverse consequence".

"We have got to enforce those responsibilities fairly and properly," said Mr Hutton.

"But the fundamental here is that the father or mother who has moved away from the family does not in that action of moving away then sever all of their ties.

"We have got to make sure that they meet their financial responsibility to their kids and if that means taking stronger powers then we are certainly prepared to look at that."

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