Single parent charity Gingerbread has labelled new child maintenance collection charges ‘wrong in principle’.
From today, new applicants to CSA successor the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will need to pay an application fee of £20. Only victims of domestic violence will be exempt from this charge. The CMS will also begin the closure of all CSA cases from today, a process expected to take four years in total.
Collection charges for parents unable to reach agreement between themselves will also become payable from August 11. Fees of 20 per cent will be charged to the paying parent, along four per cent to the collecting ‘parent with care’, under the CMS ‘Collect and Pay’ statutory scheme.
Parents who make a ‘Direct Pay’ voluntary arrangement will be exempt from the fees. The government expects its total income from collection fees to reach £980 million over the next nine years. It also expects the number of people using the statutory service to drop by one quarter of a million over the next five years and an additional fall of around 15,000 per year in new applications due to the administration fee. As many as 10,000 of the people dissuaded from applying by the administration fee may not make other arrangements.
Fiona Weir is Chief Executive of Gingerbread. She said many single parents would struggle to make their own maintenance arrangements and claimed the government had a “blinkered focus” on voluntary maintenance agreements.
“Most single parent families are struggling financially at the moment and the £20 application fee to use the new Child Maintenance Service will be very difficult in practice for some to afford. It is simply wrong in principle for the government to deduct money intended for children if the new service has to step in and collect from a parent who has failed to pay.”
Nevertheless, parents should make every effort to reach their own arrangements, she added, to maximise the financial support available to their children.