Charity calls for ‘root and branch’ review of child maintenance

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New figures reveal a £1bn shortfall in payments collected from non-resident parents. 

5th August 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

A “root and branch” review of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) could lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty, a charity has claimed.

One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) is calling for the review after figures revealed a £1bn shortfall in child maintenance money collected from non-resident parents.

The charity said the CMS suffers from “extensive” problems ranging from calculations to enforcement to customer service.

It wants to see children in separated families benefit from regular child maintenance, when assessed by the CMS as correct, in full and on time.

Meanwhile, stronger powers should be available to challenge parents who fail to pay child maintenance.

OPFS is also calling for the abolition of CMS charges for parents receiving maintenance, who are unfairly penalised for a child’s other parent’s unwillingness to pay.

According to the charity, these measures would lift one in five children in Scotland out of poverty.

A spokesperson said: “A full root and branch review is needed to ensure fairness for both parents, but ultimately it is the children who are losing out.”

Marion Fellows, MP for Motherwell and Wishaw, is also calling for a full review of the CMS.

She said: “With child maintenance arrears approaching £1bn, children are losing out. The UK Government must conduct a full root and branch review of the Child Maintenance Service and ensure a cultural shift towards enforcement to crack down on non-payment and an improvement to the standard of service.

“The review must include an assessment on the impact of the 4% Maintenance Tax on families. The UK Government should not be depriving children of essential support just because a parent evades their responsibilities, or another is the victim of domestic abuse. This is a continuation of abuse.

“Non-resident parents are being treated unfairly when changes to their calculations can only be made if their income changes by more than 25%. This must be lowered so wealthier parents with increases pay more to their children and lower income parents who incur a pay cut are not disproportionately impacted.

“MPs of all parties have roundly and rightly criticised the CMS. We all agree there is a legal and moral responsibility on parents to financially support their children. If they opt to evade their responsibilities, then it is the UK Government must ensure they cannot.”