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Child Maintenance charges lead to drop in parents seeking help

An application charge for parents to access the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has led to a significant drop in the number seeking help, a charity claims.

According to single parent charity Gingerbread, 2,900 fewer parents have applied to the CMS since the introduction of a £20 fee to use the service. This represents a drop of 30 per cent, more than twice as much as the government’s prediction of a 12 per cent drop.

The application fee was introduced in June and was called “wrong in principle” by Gingerbread. Additionally, in August the CMS brought in a ‘Collect and Pay’ scheme. This charges an additional 20 per cent to parents paying child maintenance and deducts four per cent from those who receive it.

Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir said that the charity had “consistently warned the government” about the effect of introducing the charge and that the latest figures “seem to confirm our fears”.

She added that children from single parent homes are currently “twice as likely to live in poverty” than those from two parent homes and that the charge was a further barrier to those families “getting the support they need”.

Fiona Weir implored the government to get rid of the charge. This is not the first time Gingerbread has spoken out against it. Back in February, they urged Parliament to take it out of the proposed reforms to the child maintenance system.

The charge was introduced to encourage parents to sort out their own child maintenance arrangements. However, official data which shows how many parents have made their own arrangements is yet to be published. Fiona Weir asked the Department for Work and Pensions to release this data because it was vital that the government “be transparent about the impact its reforms are having”.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Yvie says:

    Surely the whole idea behind child maintenance options is for parents to work together in deciding on the best form of maintaining their children with as little State intervention as possible. If there is a drop in applications then that can only be good news for both parents as the system would appear to be working.. There will be parents who refuse to maintain their children and child maintenance options is there to pursue those parents. If there is a charge of £20 to open a claim, then the parent who applies to use the service will have the pay the charge. The taxpayer has picked up the bill for funding this inefficient organisation for far too long. With reference to the 4% charge that the receiving parent has to pay, looking at it from another viewpoint, the paying parent actually pays the 24% charges, and the receiving parent receives 4% less. If child maintenance options works in the way it has been set up to, then the majority of fathers will pay their child maintenance directly to the receiving parents and will therefore not be charged and extra 20%, likewise the receiving parent will not receive 4% less. I am not sure why Gingerbread calls itself a single parent charity, when in fact it is a single mother charity. Perhaps by claiming to represent all single parents Gingerbread can ensure that it regularly receives its Government grant.

  2. Andrew says:

    If you want the help of the State to enforce any other sort of debt you have to pay court fees. Why should child maintenance be different?

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