PARENTS in south and west Dorset are owed millions of pounds in outstanding child maintenance payments.

The latest figures for Child Support Agency payments show that in west Dorset and Weymouth and Portland more than £8.3million is owed in arrears.

The figures, which date from December 2016, do not include arrears that have accumulated under the new Child Maintenance Service that started in 2012.

The Echo investigated the situation after being contacted by a mother of two from Beaminster, who claims she is owed around £7,500 in child maintenance payments.

She said she was just one of many parents and families who were suffering as a result of people not paying the payments they are required to make.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said: "There must be thousands of families in this country that are struggling financially that are reliant on these payments and parents are not supporting children where they should be.

"It's both of the parents' responsibility to support the children."

She said that her situation was made harder because she had a new partner and a lot of support out there was for single parents who were not being paid their child maintenance.

The woman said she knows the father of her children has gone on a number of holidays while she is still waiting for the thousands of pounds she is owed to support the children.

She said she wanted to see more action taken to try and make people parents pay what they owe and she also wanted to raise awareness of the situation facing families around the country.

In west Dorset there are still more than 1,350 live cases where Child Support Agency arrears are being sought for a total of £3,868,000, meaning the average amount owed is around £2,856.

In Weymouth there are 960 cases and the total amount owed is £4,449,000 with the average amount of arrears more than £4,600.

In total the figures for December 2016 show more than £250million in outstanding CSA payments nationally.

Local figures for how much is owed in Child Maintenance Service payments under the new system are not available but nationally the latest figures from November 2016 show more than £90million in outstanding arrears.

The government is currently carrying out an inquiry to look at the effectiveness of the Child Maintenance Service.

Emma Yorke, campaigns officer for the charity Gingerbread which advises and supports single parents, said: "Bringing up children costs money – they need clothes, food and a warm home – and both parents have a responsibility to contribute financially. 

"The failure of the CSA to collect these millions of pounds of child maintenance means that children are going without and single parents have been left poorer. 

"Child poverty in single parent families is set to double in the next four years, so it’s even more essential that this money is collected. 

"The CSA and its successor the CMS should be doing all they can to ensure that families get the financial support they are owed. 

"They have many powers at their disposal but in reality both are slow to act when parents don’t pay and single parents are left shouldering the costs of raising a child alone.

"We ask MPs to back our campaign to ensure that separated families get a child maintenance system that is fit for purpose."