From Monday anyone using the Child Maintenance Service must pay a fee for the privilege. This is just the latest example of the government penalising those whose relationship has broken down by making it more expensive for them to resolve the issues that arise following the breakdown. Those issues of course include such important things as arrangements for any children and money.
Other recent examples of this penny-pinching government policy include higher court fees and the withdrawal of legal aid for most private law family matters.
Of course, the ones hardest hit by these policies are the poorest and most vulnerable in our so-called ‘caring society’. If you are on a low income or are a single parent, then you will have to make do with less child maintenance, no legal representation and a second-rate legal system. But it is not just the poor and vulnerable. The effect of these policies will be felt by all but the very well off.
What has happened here is that those whose relationships have broken down have been made the new pariahs in society. They are costing the honest taxpayer money, and we must make an example of anyone who does that.
Of course, there are those who support the government. I’ve come across their argument many times. They say: “Why should the taxpayer foot the bill for family disputes?”
Most of those who put forward that argument must, I suspect, have never been in the unfortunate position of relationship breakdown, and they seem to think that anyone who is in that position is only there through their own fault. So, the reasoning seems to go, if it’s their fault, they should pay for it.
Of course, as any family lawyer will be able to confirm, no one wants to be in a relationship breakdown. Along with bereavement it is one of the worst situations a person can find themselves in. Whereas society used to help those in the unfortunate situation of relationship breakdown by ensuring that they have legal help and recourse to appropriate remedies, now we seem to be turning our collective backs on them.
Another argument put forward by the supporters of government policy is that people whose relationship has broken down should sort out subsequent arrangements themselves, without recourse to courts or public bodies. Well, yes, but unfortunately that is a rather naive argument. In the real world, many people who separate find it extremely hard to communicate reasonably with their former partners, and dealing sensibly with someone who is refusing to cooperate at all is obviously an impossibility.
I know that economically times are hard, but this is about compassion for those in need. I thought that that was a feature of our society, but now it seems that money is everything.
All of which makes it particularly ironic when I read on Sunday that the Ministry of Justice has wasted a staggering £56 million of taxpayers’ money on an obsolete IT project. Perhaps the government could find the savings it seeks by putting its own house in order, rather than by imposing its warped morals on the rest of us.
Photo by Steven Mileham via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence