Couples with two more or children will soon be able eligible for enrolment in the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), the successor to the controversial Child Support Agency.
The Department for Work and Pensions began a national rollout of the new child support scheme in December, but the pilot was restricted to new applications from people with four or more children by the same partner. According to a DWP spokesman, this approach:
“… allowed us to test our systems with a limited number of applicants and made it easier to address any issues. It also commits us to only opening the…scheme to more people once we are confident that it has been working well.”
By the end of this month, the Department expects to open the scheme to “new applications from people with two or more children, where the children are from the same two parents.”
Existing claims will continue under the Child Support Agency for the time being. The transfer of all support child support claims to the new service will continue until 2017.
The Child Maintenance Service will administer child support payments for those couples unable to reach voluntary ‘family based arrangements’ between themselves. In such cases the CMS will pursue the non-paying parent and collect the money, but in a significant break with the past, the government plans to make such ‘statutory’ arrangements subject to collection fees for both the resident parent receiving the money and the non-resident parent paying it – four per cent for the former and 20 per cent for the latter.
Commentators have criticised the planned collections fees as excessive and likely to encourage poverty. But the government claims:
“…too many parents have come to see the CSA as the default option for arranging maintenance. It is our view that the better way to secure an effective maintenance arrangement, including (but not limited to) financial maintenance, is to support parents to reach their own arrangements wherever possible, with a new, efficient and effective statutory scheme providing a safety net where needed.”
Charges will encourage the uptake of private ‘family-based arrangements’, the government believes.