By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 7:55 AM on 03rd September 2009
Julie Collins, 49, is a senior legal enforcement manager at the Child Support Agency in Hastings, Sussex.
Meetng women who have struggled to cope with a heartbreaking divorce – only to find that the men they once loved are refusing to support the children left behind – is a daily reminder of how critical my job is.
I recently found myself standing in a kitchen talking to a mother who has been chasing maintenance for her three children for more than a decade. She was a former nurse who had worked in mental health – a job she adored. When her marriage broke down, she had to find work closer to the school, which meant less money.
As her income fell and her husband refused to pay maintenance, she survived by maxing out on her credit cards and moving the debts from one card to another.
What struck me most was her dignity. She merely said how disappointed she was that a man she had once loved could see his own children living in such appalling conditions – the house was in terrible disrepair.
I wish this was an isolated case, but far from it. I am in charge of 33 case workers who cover the south-east of England, and each one is handling around 150 cases.
I work from 7.30am to 6pm, five days a week. There’s no such thing as a typical day, but every week I am preparing files to go to court, which is the last line of action in debt cases where someone has had every chance to pay but has continuously refused.
We do have powers to claim someone’s house and sell it to pay the debts, but in 18 years I’ve never had to resort to that. It’s a job that changes lives. We secure money for children who really need it. Like detectives unravelling a mystery, we find out who is telling the truth – and who should be paying up.