Absent parents in Kingston and Surbiton owe £2.2m in child support to their former partners.

Parents are failing to pay a total of £3.9m when the money they owe to the Government is included.

The Child Support Agency (CSA) figures are part of a wider picture which persuaded the Government to embark on reforms to ensure single parents receive payments for their children, and parents who have evaded their responsibilities are found.

Sally Russell, the founder of Netmums, which offers parenting advice and support, said: "The [total] figure owed of £3.9m is staggering – but it needs to be measured in the human cost as well.

"For each lone parent deprived of maintenance, there may be a child deprived of decent meals, clothing and items most families take for granted."

She said Netmums came across lots of families struggling to makes ends meet with lone parents finding it especially difficult.

Mrs Russell said: "It’s important for children to have the best start in life and if the absent parent isn’t contributing, it’s the child that loses out.

"We would urge any former partners to seek mediation to resolve this vital issue and ensure their children receive what they need."

The minister in charge of the child maintenance system has promised to tackle the problem with “intensive” action against parents who have failed to support their children after separation.

Work and Pensions Minister, Maria Miller, said: "These shocking figures underline the long-term failure of a system that has let down countless families.

"We are now taking tougher action against those who have refused to pay.

"All parents who are still owed CSA arrears can be assured that we will take all reasonable steps to recover this money for them."

The CSA said the arrears, which totalled almost £370m in London, had accumulated since the agency was formed in 1993 and included penalties imposed on parents who had failed to provide income details.

Enforcement has increased against parents who refuse to pay, with increases in driving disqualifications and deduction orders where money is removed directly from debtor’s accounts.