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Child Maintenance Fees

When things go awry in families, of course it’s not only the couple that is affected.

In an already stressful situation, it’s unfortunate that it’s so often the innocent children that pay the price in many ways.

Parents are required by law to provide for their children no matter what the living arrangement may be. For separated families, child maintenance is essential in helping parents support themselves and their children and Child Maintenance Services (CMS) are a vital cog in the wheel of the survival of single parent families. It is a new service run by the government which has replaced the Child Support Agency (CSA).

The CMS offers a ‘Direct Pay’ service where they assist with calculating the child maintenance amount. No fees are charged and parents liaise between themselves about payment arrangements.

But it is rare for separated parents to be able to come to an agreement on their own.

That’s where their ‘Collect and Pay’ service comes in. This serves as a mediator of sorts between the parents, to ensure that money is collected from the non-resident parent and paid over to the resident parent.

However, it seems that this system is not working very well.

According to Gingerbread, a leading charity organisation that assists single parent families, the CMS is charging for services they seem unable to deliver on. Not only is this fee deducted from the money the child should be receiving, but they are not receiving the money at all.

The money is also not being collected from the paying parent. Since the formation of the CMS in 2012, there has been over £408 million in unpaid child maintenance owed through ‘Collect and Pay’.

Gingerbread agrees to the fee being charged to non-resident parents who are not willing to pay the maintenance. However, they do not agree that resident parents should pay either the £20 application fee or the 4% levy on money received.

Gingerbread is therefore campaigning for the fees charged to resident parents by the “Collect and Pay” service to be dropped. One of the reasons is that this fee forces parents on the receiving end to extract the money rightly owed from the paying parent by whatever means possible. This, understandably, results in the cycle of abuse in relationships being exacerbated.

Research has shown that if these single parent families currently living below the bread line that are owed child maintenance were paid what was due, 60% would be elevated out of poverty.

What a difference that would make.

If you find yourself in this situation it can be a disheartening place to be. However, thanks to the law, hope is on the horizon.

As of June this year, the Department for Work and Pensions were consulting on secondary legislation with regards to payment issues under CMS.

At the same time investigations of the CMS were being conducted by the National Audit and DWP Minister, Baroness Stedman Scott, announced an independent inquiry into how the CMS assists survivors of domestic abuse.

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