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Home Policy and campaigns Media Welfare Reform Bill proposals risk jeopardising vital child maintenance
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Welfare Reform Bill proposals risk jeopardising vital child maintenance

07 March 2011

Gingerbread and Resolution - backed by The Children’s Society, Child Poverty Action Group and Citizens Advice - have today contacted all MPs to oppose child support changes proposed in the Welfare Reform Bill which has its second reading on Wednesday (March 9th)   (1).   The Bill’s measures come on top of government proposals to charge parents for using the CSA’s successor (Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission - CMEC) and risk leaving tens of thousands of parents caring for children without the money they need, the organisations warn (2). 

Under clauses 128 and 129 of the Bill, separated parents caring for children would have to show they have tried to get their former partner to pay voluntarily before their case will be taken on by CMEC.    And a parent with care whose case is taken on would only be able to get child maintenance collected (rather than simply calculated) by the state service if the ex-partner agrees, or if it can be shown that the former partner is unlikely to pay without CMEC stepping in.

In today’s briefing to MPs, the organisations warn that the Bill’s measures heavily overestimate the number of separated couples who can make fair and reliable private child support arrangements:

“It is clear that parents with care will effectively have to persuade the Commission to accept their child maintenance application, with the Commission determining whether they have done enough to show a private arrangement is not possible or appropriate.  This could well lead to distress and unnecessary delay in establishing child maintenance and getting the money flowing to children. “

Commenting, Gingerbread’s Chief Executive Fiona Weir said:

“In the real world it just isn’t always possible for separated parents to come to their own child support arrangements.  Measures in the Bill would impede access to the state child support service for parents with care of children who really need the money but can’t rely on their child’s other parent to pay voluntarily.  We are urging MPs to speak out against these measures to improve the chances of children getting the money owed to them.”

David Allison, Chair of Resolution, called on the government to engage in a real and meaningful consultation:
“It is deeply troubling that the government is pressing ahead with these legislative changes well before their consultation into the future of child maintenance closes. One has to question just how meaningful that consultation can be when proposals contained within it are already appearing in new legislation.”

Government research shows that nationally 64% of parents caring for children and using the Child Support Agency (CSA) are not confident that they could make private child maintenance arrangements with their ex-partner, even with improved information and guidance services (3).

Latest CSA statistics show that over 1.1 million single parents currently depend on the Agency to get maintenance from their former partners (4).

Notes to Editors:

(1) Clauses 128 and 129, Part 6 of the Welfare Reform Bill . http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmbills/154/11154.i-v.html

(2) In its current Green Paper Strengthening Families, promoting parental responsibility (CM 7990)  the government is proposing that single parents who want to use CMEC should, from November 2012, pay:
•         An upfront application fee of £100 (or £50 if they claim benefit, with £20 due straightaway and the rest in instalments); plus
•         An extra ongoing charge of between 7% and 12% of the money paid for children where payments are collected and enforced by CMEC.

The proposals would see non-resident parents pay a 15-20% ‘collection surcharge’ if CMEC has to step in to collect payment, plus a further charge (not specified) where enforcement action is necessary.   Non resident parents would escape any charge if they agree to make CMEC-calculated payments direct to the other parent.  Consultation on the proposed charges ends on 7th April. For full details go to http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/strengthening-families.pdf

(3) .  Wikeley N, Ireland E, Bryson C and Smith R, (2008) Relationship separation and child support study, DWP Research Report No 503

(4) CMEC (2011) CSA quarterly statistics; live caseload as at end of December 2010 is 1,152,200; http://www.childmaintenance.org/en/publications/stats1210.html

(5) Gingerbread has launched a campaign to enable single parents to tell their stories about child maintenance and to make their voices heard about what it means for them. For more information see www.gingerbread.org.uk

(6) Less than half of single parents receive child maintenance from their former partner [Families with children in Britain: Findings from the 2008 Families & Children Study (FACS), DWP research report No 656]

(7) The Green Paper is at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/strengthening-families.pdf  People can send their views to the DWP via e-mail at:  strengtheningfamilies.consultation@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

(8) On its website the Church of England has commented on the Bill’s child maintenance proposals  - See http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/the-church-in-parliament/briefing-bills/welfare-reform-bill-2011.

           
Gingerbread is the charity which works nationally and locally, for and with single parent families, to improve their lives

Press Contacts:            Gingerbread- Jane Ahrends 020 7428 5416 or 0788 1951138

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