Occasionally I am pleased to publish a guest post from contributors other than myself and my colleagues at Stowe Family Law, if I think it will be of real interest to readers generally. Given the concerns of many in relation to Child Support I am delighted to publish a guest post by Anna Pietrowski of Gingerbread, a long-established charity that supports single parent families.
They are campaigning against the Government’s proposed introduction of charges to use the Child Support Agency (CSA). A cause that has received some powerful support from the former Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern in the House of Lords, and which is also reported in The Times today.
I particularly hope the email advice package to which Anna refers will prove useful to readers.
Child maintenance is an essential form of support for many single parent families. However, making arrangements to ensure it gets paid can be complicated, confusing and sometimes distressing for all involved.
There are different ways to set up an arrangement for child maintenance – from making private arrangements, to using the CSA – and the emphasis is on the parents involved to choose the one that best suits their circumstances.
Easier said than done, for many. Especially if you’ve heard a lot about child maintenance, but are suddenly thrust into the position of actually having to arrange for it to be paid – sometimes with an ex-partner with little or no interest in helping this happen.
With this in mind, and the fact that the government is talking of overhauling the way child maintenance is currently managed through the Child Support Agency to include charges to allow parents to access it, it pays – quite literally – to have all the facts.
At Gingerbread, the national charity for single parent families, we regularly receive calls to our helpline (0808 802 0925), and questions in our online forums, from single parents who are trying to make sense of how they should approach making arrangements for child maintenance.
Some want to know how much their child’s other parent would be expected to pay. Others have had a private arrangement breakdown and are investigating alternative options. Many are struggling to navigate their way through the CSA.
The common thread we hear is that single parent families aren’t always clear on how to get to child maintenance – money to which their children are entitled and which many families, as one single mum told us: “completely rely on to stay afloat”.
In order to help single parents find the information they need to make informed decisions about child maintenance, Gingerbread has launched an email advice pack bringing together expert advice on key areas of the child maintenance process from our extensive collection of factsheets.
The email advice pack includes information about:
• Getting the right amount of child maintenance
• Coming to agreements with an ex-partner
• Enforcing payments
• Using the Child Support Agency.
Single parents can get the pack sent straight to their inbox by heading to www.gingerbread.org.uk/emailadvice.aspx and entering their email address.
Gingerbread’s campaign against CSA charges
Gingerbread is campaigning against government proposals to charge single parents an upfront application fee (around £50-100) to use the CSA to claim child maintenance, and an ongoing ‘collection charge’ of up to 12% per payment and an ongoing ‘collection charge’ of between 7 and 12% on any maintenance paid to the parent with care, as well as an extra 15-20% charge added to the non-resident parent’s payment.
We think the charges are deeply unfair, and in the end it’s the families that will suffer. And we’re not alone. Senior Tory Peer Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who introduced the Child Support Act in 1991 under Margaret Thatcher, is also in opposition to the charges and has tabled an amendment that would exempt parents who have no option but to use the CSA to receive money for the care of their children from charges.
In an interview with The Times published today, Lord Mackay described the charges as “utterly unfair” and placing multiple “hurdles” in the way of parents who need support.
Commenting in the article, our Chief Executive Fiona Weir said: “the indications of support Lord Mackay has received so far show the high level of cross-party concern at the government’s proposals.
“We fully support efforts to help separated parents work together to deal with the financial, emotional and practical consequences of separation. But the government needs to realise that in very many cases that isn’t possible, and if charges are introduced then it will be children who lose out.”