She’s attacked “feckless” families who want something for nothing, but the Ukip MEP behind the party’s welfare policy owes more than £2,000 in unpaid child support, Channel 4 News can reveal.
Janice Atkinson, a senior Ukip figure who has criticised parents she accused of having more children than they could afford, has only made sporadic payments towards her teenage son’s upkeep in the last four years, documents seen by this programme show.
Atkinson told us that she has been in dispute with the Child Support Agency (CSA) over the amount.
She has already been taken to court twice by the CSA to force her to pay up what she owed after she fell behind in her payments in the past. MEPs are paid around £79,000 per year. She was elected as an MEP for South East England in May 2014.
Atkinson, who has been selected as Ukip’s candidate for Folkestone and Hythe at next year’s general election – one of the party’s top targets seats – has previously attacked what she called a “something for nothing culture”.
Writing for the Daily Express last year, she said most parents could not afford more than two children and that there were “feckless” families having more because they could rely on the state to fund them.
Her ex-husband Steve Small, 58, who has had custody of their two children, said her refusal to pay has “caused major hardship for her son and for her family”.
He said that he was out of work for a spell earlier this year, which “brought things to a bit of a head”.
“While it is a bit of a struggle, there is no support whatsoever from this woman. She needs exposing for the type of person she is. It might sound like an estranged ex-husband but she has gone too far,” he told Channel 4 News.
In the welfare section of Ukip’s manifesto, to which she contributed, the party says that it would “ensure there is an initial presumption of 50/50 shared parenting in child custody matters and grandparents will be given visitation rights”.
The documents show, however, that she has rarely kept up with what the CSA calculated as her share of her child’s upkeep.
She needs exposing for the type of person she is
Steve Small, ex-husband
In September this year, under pressure from the authorities, she paid up what her ex-husband called a “token £500”, well short of what she owed at the time. She is believed to have made a similar payment within the last six weeks. However, that would still leave £2,270 unpaid, according to the documents.
The money was to go towards one of her sons, now aged 19. He was eligible for child support payments until he left college and went to work recently.
Ukip's manifesto - Welfare and Childcare:
Ukip opposes the bedroom tax because it operates unfairly, penalising those who are unable to find alternative accommodation and taking insufficient account of the needs of families and the disabled.
Child benefit is only to be paid to children permanently resident in the UK and future child benefit to be limited to the first two children only.
Ukip will ensure there is an initial presumption of 50/50 shared parenting in child custody matters and grandparents will be given visitation rights.
Ukip supports a simplified, streamlined welfare system and a benefit cap.
In the summer, Atkinson was forced to apologise after calling Thai-born Ukip supporter Fa Munday a “ting tong from somewhere”. The comment was recorded on a microphone she was still wearing after a BBC interview in August.
Both Atkinson and Ukip leader Nigel Farage apologised to Fa Munday, who lives with her husband Vince in the South Thanet constituency, where Farage plans to stand at next year’s general election.
But, after Ms Munday’s husband Vince said Atkinson had been “arrogant” during their telephone conversation, Atkinson accused him of simply looking for his “5 mins of fame”.
Non-payment of child support is not a criminal offence but the CSA does have the power to have people locked up for up to six weeks for it.
A Ukip spokesman, speaking on behalf of Atkinson, said: “this is a private family matter which is currently under appeal. Ms Atkinson disputes the claim as she was not earning for the period of the claim. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”