Is the new child maintenance system putting domestic violence survivors at risk?

Family Law|September 14th 2016

I suspect that it is a common misconception that domestic abuse ends when a relationship ends. Well, it probably does in many cases, but in some cases it will continue for years after the end of the relationship, especially where the parties have minor children, and therefore have to continue to have dealings with one another.

There are two main situations in which abuse may then occur. The first is in connection with arrangements for the child to have contact with the absent parent. The second is in connection with the payment of child maintenance by the absent parent.

So far as the child maintenance situation is concerned, there are two particular issues. Firstly, the risk of the abuser finding out the whereabouts of the victim, where the victim has moved to an undisclosed address, in order to escape the abuse. Secondly, the risk of the abuser withholding all or part of the maintenance, in a form of financial coercive control.

Yesterday the single parent charity Gingerbread issued a press release claiming that new evidence from them and domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid shows that domestic abuse survivors are being put at risk by the government’s new Child Maintenance Service (CMS). They “are concerned that the lack of specialist training for staff, combined with the expectation that parents interact over payments is leaving survivors open to financial and emotional abuse. They warn that some parents are dropping out of the system entirely because they feel unprotected.”

Gingerbread point out two particular (linked) problems with the new system, one relating to the method of payment of child maintenance, and the other relating to the impact of charges in the new system.

So far as payment is concerned, there are two methods available: ‘Direct Pay’, whereby the absent parent makes the payments direct to the parent with care, and ‘Collect and Pay’, whereby the maintenance is collected by the CMS, and then paid to the parent with care. The new system was designed primarily with the goal of removing the burden of dealing with child maintenance from the state, and therefore it strongly favours the Direct Pay method. It does this in two ways. Firstly, via a rule that says that either parent may choose Direct Pay without requiring the consent of the other parent, unless there’s evidence that the paying parent is unlikely to pay. Secondly, by imposing charges for using the Collect and Pay service: paying parents have to pay a 20 per cent fee on top of their regular child maintenance payment, and receiving parents will have a four per cent fee deducted from their regular child maintenance payment.

The charities say they have heard from parents who are too frightened to go ahead with direct payments in case their abuser gets hold of their personal details, for example bank details. Further, and obviously, if the absent parent is a bad payer then the parent with care may have no option but to use the Collect and Pay service. However, say Gingerbread, many domestic abuse survivors may be reluctant to do so, for fear of upsetting the other parent (and also because they will lose out on part of their payments). They are then left at the mercy of the paying parent, who can decide what and when to pay.

There is also a £20 application fee for using the CMS in the first place. This can be waived for domestic abuse survivors, but Gingerbread point out that they have to declare a history of abuse and are not directly asked – the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) itself has acknowledged that this will mean many survivors end up paying the fee.

I agree entirely with Gingerbread and Women’s Aid that the new system is putting domestic abuse survivors at unnecessary risk. The charities are calling for the DWP to do three things. Firstly, to roll out specialist training and clear guidance for CMS staff on how to recognise and work with domestic abuse survivors; secondly to offer survivors the option to fast-track to using the Collect and Pay service; and thirdly to drop the four per cent collection charges for single parents in cases of domestic abuse, and review the 20 per cent charge for the paying parent. Whether the DWP will do any of these things, we will have to wait and see, although I won’t be holding my breath.

Photo by William Grootonk via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Author: Stowe Family Law


  1. Andy says:

    What next…
    CMS will now use additional calculation for domestic violence victims and percentage additional payments…that will be next..

    So the 9%,16%,20%, calculation currently used to decimate fathers of how many number of children in the once family, then the Groups such as Ginger bread and who are really gold diggers hideing behind these network of screamers..
    Want more payments…
    This begs the question if you get or obtain identity removal so you are lost and no current information obtained then what if you were the NRP who had been abused and did the same you would be treated as CMS avoidance…plus the poor old mother her by the way will now earn more than you and gets the 4% wiped off plus benefits as well..can’t be bad..

    So specialist training on how to recognise domestic violence is to be rolled out to all CMS staff..
    So what will trigger the domestic violence support…
    Here is the answer…
    The PWC states he can’t afford paying the increased CMS payments..that will be enough to trigger a domestic violence case and 4% saving for the PWC…Then the 4% will be added to the NRP…
    Good old government…how quick do you think that will be rushed through…

  2. Andy says:

    Trouble is all the gold digger mother’s out there seem to shout but what about the Father,seem nothing is ever done…

  3. Mehul Desai says:

    Agree with some of this blog post, but can’t see what a person can achieve with ones Bank Account number? There is nothing you can do other than pay in and this is precisely the reason to provide it. You certainly cannot wipe out an account, even if that was realistic, there is an endless stream of evidence generated. The only problem I can see is the Sort Code may link to a certain bank, in which case you just open a free account elsewhere in minutes using internet solely for receiving payments. I could see a higher risk of PayPal was recommended.

    • Stitchedup says:

      Looks like John has found a friend in Mehul. You seem to be missing the point Mehul, this is all about screwing more money out of Fathers by playing the trumps all domestic abuse card. It is literally the get out of jail card for any woman… Didn’t you pop the cork on a bottle or two when Helen Titchener was found not guilty?? Perhaps we should be arming “Survivors” of disagreements about the selling price of the former family home with knives. Those that have received texts from an ex informing them that they’re running late for a contact handover should perhaps be given guns to shoot the abuser when he eventually manages to get through the traffic. Domestic abuse hysteria has now got to the point that it is encouraging unlawful acts, and is used to bend any rule, process or procedure in a woman’s favour. We hear today that New Zealand want to put any allegation of domestic abuse on a man’s criminal record before he has a criminal record…. How mad is that ?? A clear breach of due process and the concept of innocent until proven guilty… Then again, those of us that have experienced the circus of answering to false domestic abuse allegations know that guilty until proven innocent is the reality in both the civil and criminal courts. It’s all about politics, nothing whatsoever to do with protection against genuine domestic violence. If, as you appeared to claim in another post, you are a family lawyer you will know this. It will only be your politics or fear of comprising your career that will cause you to deny this. Most lawyers I know will admit this in private and will also tell you which judges are playing the politics and making unsafe judgments.

  4. Stitchedup says:

    Yet another incentive for women to make false allegations of domestic abuse. Add this incentive to the others such as securing legal aid, occupation of the family home, custody of children, better financial settlements etc etc and best of all, the opportunity to get your ex locked up for next to nothing and ruin his life for ever…. Happy Days!!!

  5. JamesB says:

    Does society and people really want to hear DV stories and support DV / DA people outside or the liberal elites? Probably not. Problem is liberal elites write the laws.

  6. JamesB says:

    Please forgive the word elite with reference to John, just couldn’t think of an alternative appropriate word at the time, the establishment politically correct brigade I suppose.

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