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Latest: Cross-party support keeps the pressure on

Mum Lizzie and twins

In recent weeks, much of the news cycle and political debates have been monopolised by the announcement of the general election. Alongside campaigning to ensure single parents feel empowered to vote and use their voice in this election, we here at Gingerbread remain committed to our Maintenance Matters campaign, and achieving real change for single parent families throughout the election period and beyond.

In light of that, we are relieved that the Work and Pensions Select Committee have published their review of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). The review highlights a wide range of problems with the CMS. The findings reflect the considerable level of evidence that Gingerbread submitted to the committee from single parents themselves, the majority of who don’t receive any of the child maintenance that their children are entitled to. 

Soon after the general election, we will be launching our report on child maintenance avoidance and evasion – an issue we’ve paid significant attention to, and gathered substantive evidence on, over the past few months. The report will examine how the CMS enables some paying parents to pay levels of maintenance far below their actual ability to financially support their children. We’ve worked closely with a number of single parents to demonstrate the CMS’s systematic failings. We’re going to use this new evidence to target the (potentially new) Minister to encourage them to take action. This will be an opportunity to highlight the progress of the campaign as well as an opportunity to make a significant parliamentary and public case for change. 

Over the past few months, we’ve been exposing the shocking £4 billion of child maintenance arrears owed to parents across the country. We’ve captured the attention of media and parliament alike with national media including the BBC online covering the issue. The Victoria Derbyshire show also ran an extensive feature where our policy expert Janet Allbeson was the go-to expert, and also sat on a live panel discussion alongside Heidi Allen MP (Conservative) and others. 

In March, the National Audit Office (NAO) published the findings of its investigation into Child Support Agency (CSA) case closure. The NAO consulted with us and reported on our findings, confirming the concerns of single parents and Gingerbread with the new CMS. 

In recent months, the campaign has gained impressive cross-party political support. Marion Fellows MP (SNP) held a Westminster Hall Debate in parliament where a group of MPs discussed the various failings of the CMS, including uncollected maintenance arrears and unfair charges imposed on survivors of domestic violence. You can watch the parliamentary debate again on our website.

David Burrowes MP (Conservative) has also put forward a Bill to parliament, which proposes to make sure that income and assets are properly taken into account when calculating what non-resident parents should pay. The proposal draws on our findings and from parents who’ve come forward to expose their case as part of our campaign. We're thrilled that child maintenance avoidance is finally being taken seriously. We will continue to press for progress post-election.   

Throughout these parliamentary debates, MPs often referred to constituents who had written to them about their case, and the impact that non-payment is having on their children. This is proof that engaging with your MP can really help push for a change.  

A big thanks must also go to the over 160 of you who have now taken action and written to the Minister about how undeclared income has led to inaccurate child maintenance payments. Thanks to you, we’ve shown the Minister that undeclared income is a significant issue - not simply 'hearsay' as the Minister claimed. The CMS have replied to many of these letters stating that the Financial Investigation Unit (FIU) will now undertake a further investigation. Although we know this doesn’t guarantee change, it’s a positive and welcome step in the right direction.  

Thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign and taken action for a fairer child maintenance system.

Please remember to keep updated about the campaign and ways to get involved by signing up to our campaign e-news. 

Please join our campaign for a fairer child maintenance service.