Sixty per cent of people surveyed by social research firm NatCen (the National Centre for Social Research) believe the government should set a minimum level for maintenance payments and not leave such decisions to parents. Only 17 per cent disagreed.
Meanwhile, 59 per cent of the respondents disagreed with the suggestion that the government should not enforce child support payments.
There is also widespread support for larger maintenance payments, especially when the non-resident parent has a higher income.
The majority of non-resident parents also supported government involvement and enforcement – 45 per cent were in favour of setting the level and 46 per cent in favour of government enforcement, compared to 28 and 27 per cent opposed.
Researcher Caroline Bryson said the report highlighted a gap between public attitudes and the government’s current approach to child maintenance, which emphasises voluntary arrangements over compulsory schemes.: “Our study shows that the current statutory child maintenance system falls far short of public expectations, and the planned changes will move child maintenance policy still further from public opinion about what the state’s role should be.”
The research was funded by social research charity the Nuffield Foundation. Director of Social Research and Policy Teresa Williams said: “Public opinion is particularly relevant in this instance both because such a large proportion of ‘the public’ are directly affected by child maintenance, and because the planned reforms to the child maintenance system will put more of the decision-making into their hands.”
The data was gathered for the annual British Social Attitudes Survey.
Photo by David Goehring via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence