Does Gingerbread have a monopoly on the argument?

Family Law|June 30th 2017

In an article in The Times this week headlined Fathers use elaborate tricks to avoid paying child support we hear the same one sided story from ‘single parent’ charity Gingerbread that men are feckless ‘high-rollers’ who care nothing for their children and create elaborate financial scams to defraud the hapless child maintenance and tax authorities who are left trailing in their wake.

This is a part of a campaign that seeks to convince us all that men are bad, women are good and children need to be saved from having to have a relationship with their fathers. Gingerbread and others seek to ‘monopolise’ the argument

The Times sets out the ways that these ‘typical’ fathers continue to abuse their defenceless ex-partners and children.

  • Set up a limited company for professional earnings and pay a salary to a new wife or partner.
  • Run a limited company and take a small salary but with lavish benefits and large pension contributions.
  • Transfer large shareholdings to a family member so dividends are not declared on your gross income
  • Draw income from ISAs or trust funds that are not liable for income tax and are “invisible” to HMRC.
  • Hold substantial wealth in assets and live off the capital while declaring little or no income

Well that doesn’t sound like the ‘typical’ Dad who calls our helpline or comes to our network of advice and support meetings across Wales.

Let me introduce ‘Mark’. He’s a dad of two living in South Wales. His eldest child lives with his mother. She’s fought for almost a decade to prevent their child from having a relationship with his father. ‘Mark’ is currently receiving £73.10 per week in Job Seeker’s Allowance. BUT, from those benefits he has £8.40 deducted by the Child Maintenance Service and paid to the mother of his child. She works part-time and with the full array of benefits are given to her because she is a single parent with a child. She has a monthly income more than 20 times higher than ‘Mark’. Mark’s position highlights a further problem that impacts directly on children because this ‘deduction’ from his benefits takes food from the mouth of his second child, leaving ‘Mark’ unable to pay for the most basic of items.

The Times article also makes no pretence about a ‘gender-neutral’ approach. Current estimates suggest that more than 10 per cent of primary carers for children are men. So now let me introduce you to ‘Emily’. She’s a Mum who isn’t the main carer for her child. ‘Emily’ sometimes struggles with her mental health but always puts her child first. She works part time in a low wage job. She barely earns enough to pay National Insurance (currently £8,400 p.a.) The main carer for her child has a high-powered, full time career earning more than five times what ‘Emily’ does. Yet the child maintenance authorities pursue HER for a percentage of her annual income.

But surely these stories can’t be right. How can the state create a system where individuals on benefits or in very low wage jobs can possibly have money deducted from them to pay to the ‘main carer’, who can readily access a range of childcare benefits and may earn substantial amounts from wage and investment income? How much do you have to earn for the Government to take money from you to pay to the other parent? Well the answer is £7. Yes – £7 per week. That’s all you need to ‘earn’ before the Government will step in and take money from you to give to the other parent of your child.

The first £100 of weekly income results in a flat rate £7 charge. But when you start to really earn some cash then child maintenance properly kicks in. The threshold for paying a percentage of your income is just £100 per week! ‘Emily’ only has one child. This means that from everything she earns above £100 a week the Government will take 17 per cent of her gross income and pay it to the other parent who earns five times more than she does. So when ‘Emily’ has her child living with her she has so little money to care for her that it seriously undermines the relationship between her and her child.

Child maintenance does however have a mechanism for recognising that the ‘paying parent’ also has costs linked to being a parent. For each night that the child stays with the ‘paying parent’ the amount paid to the ‘receiving parent ‘is reduced by one seventh. But even that creates a perverse disincentive.

We see many fathers who are told that they can’t have the child in their care overnight. One case that particularly stands out was a dad called ‘Colin’ who shared the care of his children almost equally following separation. The mother used child maintenance as a form of control over him – on several occasions unilaterally stating that she was stopping contact when he disagreed with anything she said about the care of their children. On one such occasion the father had the Child Maintenance Service on the phone within two hours to ‘adjust’ his payments as they’d heard he was no longer seeing his children so couldn’t claim the ‘discount’ for each night they were in his care.

The ‘monopoly’ of the argument around these issues by a pressure group with an agenda is a gross distortion. We know that there ARE men who walk away from their responsibilities. But these media attacks portraying a one sided argument have to be challenged. Together with our sister charity Families Need Fathers we made submissions to the House of Commons Work & Pensions Committee about the new child maintenance system. We know it is far from perfect – something that we can at least agree with Gingerbread – yet the evidence of real hardship, of manipulation by ‘receiving parents’ using coercive and controlling behaviours to ‘punish’ their former partners was completely ignored. Do we think the fact that more than three quarters of all suicides are by men has any connection with this problem? Well the answer is that we genuinely don’t know because no-one is interested in finding out why men in midlife seem so intent on killing themselves every year. But here are just some of the comments we received in response to a survey of the experience of al dads in Wales

“I attempted suicide ten years ago when my ex wife told me if I didn’t hand the house
over to her she would tell enough lies to ensure I never saw my children again.”

“Having my children taken away from me. I was very close to my sons. Then having 42 allegations against me just so that she could get legal aid. Suicide seemed the best option. Twice I tried to hang myself and once I stood on a railway track. The Samaritans talked me off the track.”

So the next time you hear the same old argument that fathers are like ‘Rich Uncle Moneybags’ and use the system to oppress poor deserving mothers and their children maybe YOU’LL just pause to think whether that view is the whole truth. The ‘monopoly’ of the argument harms children – it’s time for a different voice to be heard.

You can read The Times article here.

Image by Evan Jackson via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Author: Paul Apreda

Paul Apreda is a Trustee of the English charity Families Need Fathers in addition to being National Manager of the Welsh charity. He is also Secretary of the cross party Group in the Welsh Assembly on fathers and fatherhood.

Comments(26)

  1. Lee says:

    My goodness some of these stories on all spectrums are sad . I can tell you this ,
    Dealing with cms and rich dads that do the avoidances is the most horrendous , frustrating experience I have ever had . One sentence I just read was ‘putting the children first ‘. Yes the children’s needs . There are rich dads that are so consumed with themselves they pay nothing near what they should , and do all of the above avoidance schemes as a business owner . It happens , it’s terrible, it’s a demeaning horrible road to be on I can tell you . I read parliament speeches and blogs about capital elements being taken , mp’s giving cases to the debates . But ……… What is being done ? My mp wrote , my letter from the welfare secretary avoided the issues ! …. Round and round we go again ! Survival of the mums with most strength , still don’t get any results . It needs reform in all levels of the hideous system . It fails

    • Andrew says:

      Lee, I’m struggling to understand the point? Are you agreeing that the problem is wider than that that gingerbread seeks to portray? I’m sure they would like everyone to believe the story that they put out because, let’s not kid ourselves that is exactly what it is; a fiction.

      The reality is this closer to this:

      If you look at the history, “Child Support” legislation was originally conceived to put money into the treasury coffers. Lord Carter said the following

      “The department which will get good value for money from this Bill is the Treasury.”

      Furthermore, Gingerbread gets most of its funding from the DWP and HMRC. They will never produce a balanced view that would harm their benefactor. The system persists because of the division it fosters.

      Wide scale reform is needed of the laws that stretch back to 1991. A modern system to suit a modern world. A world where fathers and mothers raise their children together; true co-parenting.

      The simple fact is that the CSA and it’s new iteration, the CMS are both unfit for purpose. This is down to the legislation and the implementation in equal measures. It’s very closely tied to the Family Law system in the UK and perhaps it is now finally time to start considering that children need both the emotional AND financial support of both parents. A rebuttable presumption of equal parenting time coupled with a wholesale reform of the child support legislation would be a good starting point.

  2. Lynne says:

    Once again, sweeping statements presenting just one side of an issue. I am sure that there are rich Dads out there who abuse the system and they should not. So, how many exactly are we talking about?? I would imagine the number to be low compared to the hundreds of Dads who do work and “hand over” 20% of what the earn and what’s left is stretched out to support a new family. Of course children should be provided for by those who are able to do so, but that means ALL children, both those on the horizon of CMS and also those who are not.

  3. Peter says:

    I have a 7 year old daughter I do not see I pay maintenance 124.00 a mouth I only earn 250.00 pounds a week I have a house and another 2 children my son it’s half custody I do sometimes earn 350.00 a week that’s weekends I have no spare money I am struggling to keep a roof over my head I have asked csa if they can drop the money as the mother earns more than me I not getting anywhere I can’t claim for housing benefit they ate going my my top line witch I don’t get and workin tax what help is out there for the men

  4. Rob says:

    We’re all the same people but divided by a common language.

    On the one side we have Gingerbread and the whole “all dads are feckless and hiding money” argument, and on the other we have the NRPs saying “I’m happy to pay my fair bit but why isn’t anyone sorting out parents who obstruct contact first?”

    I think we can all agree that the CMS which was trumpeted as a reformed CSA is nothing more than a sham. Yes they have a new logo but it’s the same people with the same attitudes creating the same mess that they always did. It doesn’t work for parents on either side of the paying/receiving fence and it’s time organisations joined forces and pushed for reform instead of issuing divisive and flawed research like Gingerbread keep doing. They get more than their fair share of exposure at select committees and the like without needing to issue this guff to the braying mass of their membership.

    Well done FnF Both Parents Matter for presenting the realities. Now if you can only get the exposure that Gingerbread get perhaps more people will take note and start working together to sort out this mess.

  5. TJ says:

    I think the CMS should be refined to take a lot more into account. My ex gets more money than I do. She has been awful, accused me off the most heinous types of abuse in her quest to stop contact yet I am at a point now where I am collecting my son for 4 nights a month meaning I should now see a reduction a little bit in my payments. I do so much with him, she doesn’t even take him to the dentist. I don’t think it is fair I pay her money and she can do what she wants with it. It’s mad that we have to pay even her.

    She should at least have to account for the money. If we could put it on a prepaid card and view the statement.

  6. Sue Perkins says:

    We believe that enhancing human welfare demands fundamental social changes and hence, challenge society’s traditional attitude. The family court system, CAFCASS, and police have too often oppressed men rather than liberation even after there are enough physical evidences that prove male victim’s innocence.

    When CAFCASS and the family court system insist that the rules of the game count more than the outcome, injustice is tolerated. Reason being, it seems to result from a legitimate process and not from institutionalised structural factors. This favours women at the expense of their male victims.

    HELP 4 MALE VICTIMS OF INTIMATE PARTNER’S VIOLENCE refers and provides support to deal with every aspect. This includes going to court for child(ren) custody battle.

  7. Vincent McGovern says:

    And once again we have the selfish feckless absent father narrative so beloved of Gingerbread and also by so much of the personnel within the miss-named UK family court arena. What a privilege it would be to see Paul Apreda’s excellent article above given the same publicity in The Times newspaper as a counter to the one featured. Credit to Marilyn Stowe blog for giving Paul the opportunity to present the alternative view. I have always found that where injustice exists the first victim is language. Control the language and you control the narrative, then you control the outcome.

  8. Andy says:

    Here we go again same old issue..mother known as gold digger with glossary is not nor will be effected by the CMS. Gingerbread on the other hand portray Fathers as like Rab C Nesbits…you know, drunk ,no job, no earnings and so forth..

    In reality majority of fathers are paying but groups such as Gingerbread make claims of majority don’t.
    With loopholes that allow non payment…
    CMS are incompetent through out and if you ever inform them that you wish to change payments etc you get no response what so ever because your circumstances have changed..So if you don’t pay they will ring you up and ask why…typically worked one way I note that the CMS rang one father within two hours..what I would of done is told them to wait 6 months for my reply as they do the same if you actually get a reply…
    Question is what if the mother was not the primary carer..See how quick she would scheme all sorts to reduce payments to the father ,PWC as known.

    So what if you go self employed or pay more into your pension it’s up to you not the CMS to tell you what you can and cannot do..
    Ginger bread need to be stripped of funding via the government and then see how they survive..
    In reality pay for your children but not where the CMS tell you to pay as is the case..
    It should be means tested as both parties should contribute not contribute by only one..
    Time and time again the narcissist Groups blame the fathers and the age old threats reduction or refusal to see the children by the mother because £20.00 has been reduced..is it pay per view????.
    In all the CMS are a joke and until action is taken against the agency you will still pay for there incompetence…
    Fathers for Justice and Family for children etc.need to stand up and be herd..if bleeding again Gingerbread can give a gutter press article on all fathers don’t pay rather than Gingerbread are scheming the government out of millions for there own benefit…how much are the so called directors or board members salary on again..surprising!!!

  9. Jerry says:

    Was it not ever thus?
    The real Mr (or perhaps Ms) Moneybags seeks to both set and own the narrative. But Moneybags doesn’t earn the money – she gets it from the rest of us taxpayers and through charity. As if the monopoly was not enough, something similar happens with domestic violence, where despite the fact (ONS) that roughly a third of domestic abuse cases are perpetrated on men by women, roughly 100 times as much is spent by the government helping female victims than on helping male victims. And to make matters even more extraordinary, I’m told that in Wales, a well known organisation which aids women is being given money to support male victims as well as women. The organisation is not known for its hospitality to men. Does this sound a bit like putting the bunnies in charge of the carrot patch? Surely shome mistake!

  10. Iain says:

    This post is a long time coming and I hope it’s the beginning of a re-dress for the whole culture system. Non-resident parents are always the bad guys, the UK has an intoxicating stigma against nrp and it’s perpetrated and perpetuated by Gingerbread but also by the Government. Cameron made a speech not so long ago saying “fathers would pay”. I mean, good grief, it’s not 1872.

    FNF is doing a great thing as are others but until we have a true movement towards a culture of co-parenting as the norm the nrp (of which I am one) will always be worse off. Defined even as NRP is a negative stereotype, parents are parents. A lot of resident parents are horrific but nothing happens/is done. NPR are persecuted from the off. 10 years in now and it hasn’t changed. We can’t buy houses because up to 25% of our income is siphoned off, no means testing, renting with single income – up to 25% means poor accommodation, means less access or deep coercive control, means downward spiral, means low self-esteem…..etc. Where resident parents and single parents are supported seemingly unendingly through the tax system, which nrp’s also fund, so you know….paying twice there.

    Final point, parenting can no longer be measured by financial contribution, residence and arrangement agreements should not be defined by finance contribution either. It’s time for parenting to be about loving your child and a new social slate of equal footing and opted in co-operation, by law, for all/both willing parents.

  11. Ali says:

    Disgusting Gingerbread article,buyous and one sided,making it harded for fathers to stay in children’s lives,shame on you.

  12. TSC says:

    Husband has had csa/cms in his life since 2010, he has had his children in his life 2 years before his Ex broke the Court Access order and watched her payments increase and he hasnt seen his children since.
    He changed jobs and it took the csa 12 months to calculate his payments and this put him in £2000+ of arrears. To which he was told pay £400 now or you go on a DEO and because we said we didnt have that sort of money the guy replies “what sort of fathers choses not to provide for his children”.
    Fast forward to cms and 11 months to provide bank details for the Ex followed by a £3900 in arrears letter. No break down of payments, no schedule just various payment demands over 3 weeks with different figures each time.
    Sent a complaint in April 2017 due the demands for money for arrears they created, a data breach and yet to get a response.
    Husband earns £13900 before tax etc, pays £2000 in maintenance per year, then taxed etc…. We are expected to live off £4.25 per hour to raise 3 children in the home.
    Why is it acceptable to put second families in debt to provide for another family, my children before i married my husband are in the eyes of the csa/cms worth less than his 1st children and they make it very clear in their attitude, comments and inability to do there jobs effectively that they sit as judge and jury.

  13. Paul edwards says:

    This is only a few stories, they need to open there eyes, there’s thousands of parents mostly dads but some women that go through all the stories in one, allways ends in money, the courts turn a blind eye to the so called best interest in the child, Yeh sure, we understand paying for the child but pay for the child when there in your care and the other parent pays where in there care, only then the children will benefit and maybe the parent which stops the children from seeing the other parent will gladly let them see them when the money stops, just maybe one day things will look positive but until then, life is crap

  14. Edward Steed says:

    Both sides of the RP/NRP fence, need to understand that each case is hugely different.
    What happens if ‘Bob’ – who is already a single parent (his first partner walks out on him and their 6 month old daughter, and has never asked for a penny) years later ‘Bob’ spends an odd night or two with a lady he meets through his place of employment – ‘Ann’. She accidently becomes pregnant, doesn’t tell ‘Bob’ until about 6 months after. ‘Bob’ is upset as he is trying his best to focus on his daughter, ‘Ann’ doesn’t care and see’s it as a way to get out of her crippling debt…’Bob’ is not on the birth certificate, he has no parental rights, will never be involved with/see the child and the child does not have his Surname (no rights, but soon a lifetime financial obligation) …’Bob’ tries to keep things amicable, but ‘Ann’ gets the CSA involved…this makes ‘Bob’ very unhappy, he attempts suicide, has huge public breakdowns and can never hold a future relationship together…due to the insane amounts TAKEN/STOLEN from him by the CSA/CMS and the stress caused. ‘Bob’ always turns down promotions and pay rises as he is afraid the CSA/CMS will demand more money. 11 years after the initial event and ‘Bob’ still gets paid a wage he was paid back in 2006…has no idea where this child is or indeed if it is his…’Bob’ hates life …

  15. Simon says:

    The scenarios put forward by Gingerbread in their campaign #childrendeservemore represent the ‘elite’ tip of the iceberg! Paul Apreda’s article represents some of those perhaps more ‘at the bottom’ who earn little but still have to pay irrespective of the receiving parents situation. It also highlights how the issue of maintenance, being directly linked to contact, can encourage contact denial and parental alienation (forms of child abuse) by the parent with care (ie those who receive the maintenance). Unfortunately, there are many parents who see children as a means of financial betterment through maintenance and benefits. I suspect this may be part of the reason behind the counter tactics used by some fathers highlighted in the hugely biased campaign by #Gingerbread.. There is also a whole raft of parents who are in neither at the top or bottom of the iceberg who struggle to afford strictly imposed maintenance payments that take absolutely account of affordability and need. Divorce costs can leave the non-resident parent (usually fathers) with no home and huge debts. This puts the non resident parent in extremely difficult position, having to work all hours and not able to involve themselves in their children’s lives as much as they’d like. The whole system (not just maintenance) rewards one parent and penalises the other (usually the father). Not until the whole thing is changed to a more compulsory collaborative system will there be any fairness and true serving of children’s best interests. Shame on #Gingerbread for focusing on a minor aspect of the whole situation for the benefit of only one person…. so much for representing all parents!

  16. LP says:

    Gingerbread are upholding a romantisised and naive view for their argument. The reality is that there are parents, myself included, who fight to see their children, but are stopped by the other parent. Then, they bring in the CMS to get the maximum amount out of the non resident parent. The CMS is a blunt tool and should only be used in the most exceptional of circumstances and not the norm. It is being used as incentive to stop contact. Gingerbread does not take into the account either of when the child is post 16, and takes up any old further education course, just to say that they are in full time education so that more money can be gained. Any parent in the position where they want to parent their child and make their own provision for the child, are being prevented from doing so. The position Gingerbread makes is privaledged and naive, and dangerous. The other viewpoint needs to be represented and taken seriously for a balanced system

  17. Hazy says:

    It’s quite simple. If you don’t live with your children you will be punished if you are on a low income.

    The £100 starting rate has not changed for 18 years!!!!!!

    £13,400 is the minimum amount for a single person to have a basic standard of living. Child Maintenance should not be paid on anything earned below this amount. Using Net pay is also fairer than gross pay.

    Company cars and assets should also be left out. Salary only.

    If non resident parents have their children every other weekend no one cares if they have no money to feed them properly, to take them out for the day never mind buy them clothes and toys. children are more likely to be in much more severe poverty when staying overnight with the low income non resident parent.

    ‘It’s all about the children’ doesn’t quite ring true when you see all the hardship faced by NRP’s on lower incomes. Something is very wrong somewhere.

    Children of single parents on benefits who get child maintenance are also better off than the children of couples on benefits.

    Gingerbread is going too far.

  18. Paul says:

    We are no longer in a neuclear family situation. Man=bread winner. That sitiation is no longer right. So why is child support still right ?. Its just not correct. It needs a total rethink. The answer is Ginger bread do appear to manopolize the arguement but they should not they are totally wrong. Over 3500 people have died to date because this legislation is wrong. Killed more people than some wars. Still no political or judicial will to change it. We know its bad. We know its wrong. It just keeps rolling on.. an on….

  19. Lisa says:

    The CMS are utterly useless. On one hand you have my sons dad who has not paid a penny in years, do they chase him? No. Send a letter occasionally which he just throws in the bin (I know this because I’ve witnessed him do it). He gets away with it.
    Then there is my partner, who has been pestered constantly by them, he has spoken to them told them happy to pay once they work out how much he should pay based on his actual wages not the make believe wages his ex told them he earned. 12 months of back and forth and it still isn’t sorted. In the meantime he hasn’t paid any CS for his children.
    The system does not work. It persecutes those willing to pay forcing them into crippling debt and allows those unwilling to just walk away because “it’s to difficult to chase him down”.

  20. Garry says:

    I never had one maintenance check ever in the 15 years I brought my child up on my own. How come gingerbread don’t campaign for all single parents?

  21. JamesB says:

    All the government hear are submissions from Gingerbread, Mumsnet and Women’s aid and that is bad, as are CAFCASS, all of whom are anti male with their own interests which conflict with children and societies best interests, and that is bad.

    Also rang a bell earlier the comment about people on the receiving end of such destructive feminist nihilistic and anarchistic policies being battered and badly effected and “can never hold a future relationship together”. Was always something that should be dealt with in court or by the families themselves rather than the government steaming in and calling themselves the Daddy and messing it all up. Like US policy in the mid East, putting a puppet government in to write the rules is not a good approach. Gingerbread and the like should not speak for society or claim to be representative of it.

    We need real public consultation, including men, not the sham we have had with the feminist man haters writing the laws since the 60s, if not since women got the vote. Men don’t seem to know how to say no to these unrepresentative so called experts. They are not experts, all they know is how to mess things up, talking about Gingerbread and the like. Step one, they should invite non resident fathers to join and value their input.

    • JamesB says:

      Gingerbread, MumsNet, the government, women’s aid, all invite the men and fathers to the discussion and the policy making please.

  22. Paul Apreda says:

    Many thanks for all the comments that have been left on this topic. I’m sad to report that we’ve had even more examples of the ‘monopoly’ of the argument in the Sunday Times https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/india-knight-have-no-pity-for-divorced-rich-men-who-neglect-their-kids-9b8hcfwlc It appears that the ’empathy gap’ is getting ever wider!

  23. JamesB says:

    Emma Watson was near the spot when trying to get more men on the feminist side, they are not there. Perhaps half way there, she is right that the solution should be one which men and women buy in to. Women talking to other women and gays about how men should change is not helpful as, as a woman said on another thread, it drives the sexes apart and I believe we are each, male and female better together, and I am not talking about Scotland, I am talking about marriage.

  24. Luke says:

    I have been victim to some of the methods of control used in this article and still am. This needs to be brought to the attention of the masses. We need a documentary on the bias in the family court system and the systematic abuse of fathers by Child maintenance. I say fathers because although we don’t like to say it the pendulum is hung heavily to one side.

    How can the government promote a system the gives a financial incentive to one parent to alienate there child from the other. Nothing will work until the initial presumed care pattern after a break up is exactaly 50/50. No more, no less.

    Try going to court and fighting to have your child for half the time, you’ll get laughed at. Not once does mother get asked why she doesn’t want dad to have 50/50. You need to justify wanting to see your children. It’s a mental world we live in.

Leave a Reply

Close

Newsletter Sign Up

For all the latest news from Stowe Family law
please sign up for instant access today.

Privacy Policy