The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is too “tentative” in its approach to enforcement and must take a stronger approach to enforcement, MPs have insisted.
The CMS was launched in 2012 as a replacement for the Child Support Agency (CSA). The idea was to encourage parents to deal directly with each other following a separation rather than going through an agency of the government. The transition from the CSA to the CMS has been a gradual process but many of the more difficult or complicated cases have still not been transferred over, according to the Work and Pensions Committee.
Such cases include those involving domestic violence or fraud. In a report published today, the Committee insisted that the government must ensure that these cases are automatically taken up by the CMS instead of leaving them to the individuals involved.
In domestic violence cases, the report supported claims made by two charities last year that the CMS could actually endanger victims as direct contact could leave some vulnerable to further financial or emotional abuse. The Committee warned that parents who have gotten away from violent partners are left “with the choice of re-engaging with their abuser and risking further coercion and control, or declining money owed to them for their children”.
The MPs demanded that cases involving domestic abuse be automatically taken on by the CMS’s collection service to avoid such risks. They also recommended that unlike the majority of disputes which are enforced by the CMS, those involving domestic violence should incur no charges.
Heidi Allen, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, said “the balance between state and family is one of the hardest to get right”. However, improvements to the CMS would represent “an opportunity to get control of this decades old issue”.
“The CMS must visibly up its game, to get fair support for parents in the most difficult circumstances, and to send a clear signal that avoiding responsibility for your children is unacceptable.”
This report was published following an inquiry by the Committee into the effectiveness of the CMS. For more information, click here.