The government’s new child maintenance system begins today amid continued criticism from a single parent charity.
The new Child Maintenance Service (CMS) was brought in to replace the Child Support Agency (CSA), which is being steadily phased out over the next three years.
A new payment system has been introduced called ‘Direct Pay’. This is a voluntary arrangement which allows parents to deal with each other directly without involving the government.
However, if parents cannot come to an arrangement, there is still the option of involving the CMS. From today, cases which involve the CMS will come with enforcement charges. Paying parents will be charged an additional 20 per cent of maintenance. The ‘parent with care’ will be charged four per cent to receive it.
Child Maintenance Minister Steve Webb said the new system “encourages parents to work together in the interests of their children” and that it “gets more money to more children”.
Single parent charity Gingerbread does not share the government’s assessment.
Fiona Weir, the charity’s chief executive, said the ongoing charges would “take money from children”, and that it was “simply wrong” to punish children for their parents not paying maintenance.
Approximately 52 per cent of separated families eligible for some kind of child maintenance actually claim some. Gingerbread fears this number will now drop due to the charges.
Weir added that it was “really important” that parents not be put off by the charges. She said that “single parents shouldn’t be put off asking for help” to get a child maintenance arrangements in place.
This is not the first time the charity has criticised the new system. Earlier this year, the government rolled out a £20 application fee for parents wishing to access the CMS. Gingerbread called these new child maintenance charges “wrong in principle”.