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Maintenance matters findings

Children deserve more: challenging child maintenance avoidance

Our report shows how loopholes in the CMS allow some parents to pay a fraction of what they should. Parents and children are being let down by an opaque and unhelpful system, and many give up on getting the support they are owed.

Read our press release, executive summary and full report.

Find out more and share these findings under #ChildrenDeserveMore.

Gingerbread is calling for the government to set out a clear strategy for tackling child maintenance avoidance and evasion, including:

  • Better data sharing between CMS and HMRC on income
  • Reinstated safeguards against evasion
  • Proper support for parents to challenge unfair payments
  • A joint DWP/HMRC review on the role of HMRC in determining maintenance
  • Better co-ordination with the family courts.

Westminster Hall debate briefing: Child Maintenance Service

Read our briefing on the reformed child maintenance service, bringing together recent DWP evaluation findings with our evidence on the new system.

You can view the debate online.

Child maintenance service: evidence for the Work and Pensions select committee inquiry

Read our summaryfull report and supplementary evidence.

You can also view our oral evidence to the committee.

Gingerbread's priority recommendations for the committee are to:

  • Exempt receiving parents on low incomes from the £20 application fee
  • End the 4 per cent collection charge for receiving parents
  • Roll out mandatory domestic abuse training for CM Options and CMS staff
  • Commit greater resource and expertise to debt collection and enforcement, linked to a new DWP performance target for arrears collection
  • Conduct a cross-departmental review to develop a strategy to close loopholes which enable maintenance avoidance.

Child maintenance charging: Evidence for the DWP’s 30-month review

Read our press releasesummary and full report.

Gingerbread has collected and analysed early evidence to inform the DWP’s ‘30-month review’ of the impact of charging and related reforms, eg the introduction of ‘Direct Pay’. We found:

  • Charging has little impact in terms of encouraging FBAs or collaboration
  • Charges are an unfair and unequal barrier to access a much-needed statutory service
  • Domestic abuse is poorly recognised and dealt with within the CMS
  • The emphasis on Direct Pay and a ‘fresh start’ can supersede proper enforcement
  • The promised service quality and value for money have yet to materialise.

Gingerbread is calling for:

  • A fairer charging system, to ensure receiving parents have equal access to the statutory system and are not unfairly penalised for non-compliance
  • A more sensitive system for domestic abuse survivors, ensuring staff understand and recognise domestic abuse, and robust processes to ensure safe arrangements for survivors
  • A more responsive Direct Pay system that ensures timely and consistent enforcement, particularly for non-compliant CSA cases transferring to the CMS
  • A more transparent and accountable system, focused on scaling up the minimal public data on CSA case closure and the CMS, particularly on Direct Pay enforcement.

Media

Blogs

How the government has prioritised administrative convenience over child support
July 2017
Despite extensive reforms, the child maintenance service still allows many parents to pay a fraction of what they can afford. We outline how the government can tackle these loopholes.

How the government’s new child maintenance service leaves domestic abuse survivors out in the cold
March 2017
The government wants to transform how we think about domestic violence, but its own reforms are putting survivors who are owed child maintenance at risk - we discuss a way forward.

Government has quietly published reports on the impact of child maintenance reforms. Here’s what you need to know
February 2017
We explain the unfavourable evidence on child maintenance reforms emerging from the DWP's evaluation research.


Our evidence shows that reforms prioritise administrative convenience over the interests of children, placing support for children of separated families at risk.

  • Charges deter parents from using the system and penalise children for non-payment
  • Survivors of domestic abuse face unreasonable barriers to accessing support
  • The new CMS hasn't addressed loopholes which allow maintenance to be avoided or evaded
  • The CMS risks repeating CSA mistakes over lacklustre enforcement action
  • The CMS has yet to deliver the efficient service intended, yet obstructs complaints
  • The DWP is walking away from a legacy of CSA failure to collect debts.

Priority recommendations

  • Exempt receiving parents on low incomes from the £20 application fee
  • End the 4 per cent collection charge for receiving parents
  • Roll out mandatory domestic abuse training for CM Options and CMS staff
  • Commit greater resource and expertise to debt collection and enforcement, linked to a new DWP performance target for arrears collection
  • Widen the grounds to challenge income when calculating maintenace, to limit maintenance avoidance.

Related work

  • Maintenance Matters: Our related campaign to press for change in the new child maintenance system
  • Missing maintenance (2016): Our report on the £4 billion unpaid child maintenance arrears
  • Kids Aren’t Free (2013): Research on child maintenance arrangements for low income single parents
  • Policy blogs: An ongoing series tracking the latest child maintenance reforms
  • Single parent blogs: Single parents’ experiences of getting maintenance

Contact

If you have any questions about this research, contact our Research Officer:  sumi.rabindrakumar[at]gingerbread.org.uk.