A group of Scottish charities is carrying out research to discover how much families are being let down by the service that chases child maintence
A government service designed to ensure absent parents pay their share toward their child’s upbringing is not being used because it charges fees, charities believe.
Parents who do not live with their children have a legal obligation to provide maintenance, however only a third of absent parents do so.
Scottish charities led Fife Gingerbread say they believe the service designed to help families track down absent parents is not being used enough because it’s not free.
The really sad fact is that we have a culture in this country that silently accepts the fact that people can have children then just walk away
The Child Maintenance Service, which replaced the discredited Child Support Agency, is designed to work out a legally enforceable child maintenance amount, collect child maintenance payments from the paying parent and pass it on to the receiving parent.
However in order to put people off from using it, it charges a £20 application fee and takes a 20% collection fee on top of the maintenance pay from the paying parent and a 4% collection fee deducted from child maintenance from the receiving parent.
The fees are designed to encourage parents to create a family-based arrangement, but he charities believe single parents left caring for kids are put off using the service because of them.
Rhona Cunningham, strategic manager of Fife Gingerbread, said: “Every single day we see children who are living in poverty, heightened as a direct result of the decisions parents are making. We see parents who care who find it far too exhausting to chase child maintenance, so they opt out entirely.
“They would rather starve themselves than further drain their already depleted energy by chasing support and payments, even though they are entitled to them by law. The really sad fact is that we have a culture in this country that silently accepts the fact that people can have children then just walk away. We believe this silence is the same as the culture that surrounded domestic abuse 20-30 years ago, and we want to break that silence and begin a discussion around a subject that for some reason seems to be taboo.”
Fife Gingerbread is now working with the Poverty Alliance, Citizens Advice and Rights Fife and One Parent Families Scotland to conduct research in Fife. It is calling on local parents affected by this issue and is interested in hearing all sides of the situation. It wants to hear from parent who care for children and those who don’t.
“We know this is an extremely emotive and painful topic so we have set up a survey online and it is completely anonymous,” said Cunningham. “We are really keen to hear about the things that have worked and learn from the things that get in the way.
Take part in the initial survey via Fife Gingerbread’s website