Child Maintenance Reform

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Changes are being introduced by the government to the previously held Child Maintenance stipulations which could lead to a higher payment for single parents.

Reportedly, these changes are a result of the old method being financially inefficient and costing the taxpayer too much money. Previously, the CSA (Child Support Agency) would deal with any child maintenance issues, such as how much support was needed and to whom the support should go. Under the new rules, the CSA will be abolished because, according to a spokesperson, it was using an outdated IT system that was incapable of dealing with maintenance issues properly and took “responsibility away from the parents, encouraging conflict and hostility at huge expense to the taxpayer”.

It has been reported to have been costing the taxpayer “£74 million per annum to run in operating costs alone”. The entire state child maintenance system costs the country around £500 million a year, in addition to the £6 billion of state benefits to single parent families.

Additional 20% fee if agreement not “amicable” for single parents

The changes will also mean that if an “amicable arrangement” cannot be reached between interested parties, the paying parent will incur an additional 20% fee on top of the payment. The receiving parent will be required to pay 4%.

Numerous voices have raised concerns over the new changes. Chief Executive of single-parent charity Gingerbread, Fiona Weir, said: “While many parents are able to agree private child maintenance arrangements, for many other parents this just isn’t possible. We’re very concerned that closing CSA cases and bringing in charges may deter some parents from making new child maintenance agreements or pressure single parents into unstable arrangements, and children will lose out on vital support.”

It has been estimated that around 800,000 fathers will be affected by the changes. 350,000 will be made to pay £10 or more per week, another 100,000 will be required to pay £40 or more per week. Pensions Minister, Liberal Democrat Steve Webb, who has spearheaded the reforms, has stated that the changes will force parents to come to their own terms with regards to the arrangements.

Last week, more than 50,000 letters were sent out by the Department for Work and Pensions to parents as an initial stepping stone in putting the new changes under effect. The new system is cited to become fully operational to include all 1.1 million single fathers in the country later this year.