More support for the 1 in 4

Posted 4 October 2017

I have been a single parent for almost eight years and divorced for just over six and a half. I live alone with my daughter and I work full-time in local government. During our spare time we love listening to live music, reading and catching up with our many close friends. The highlight of her week is ‘snugglebug’ on Friday nights, when she gets to sleep in my bed, eat sweets and watch TV!

My experience with child maintenance

I haven’t received any child maintenance in almost seven years. Shortly after my marriage ended in 2008, my ex-husband was sacked for gross misconduct (he had committed fraud) and he hasn’t worked since. We had been together for ten years, six of those married. I applied for child maintenance through the Child Support Agency (CSA) several years ago; however they wrote to me and told me I was not entitled to anything as he wasn’t earning according to HMRC. I haven’t yet considered applying to the new child maintenance service (CMS); I believe that he is deliberately not working because he wants to evade paying maintenance.

I don’t think that there is enough being done by the government to help single parents receive the child maintenance that they are owed and which they need to live on. 1 in 4 families in the UK are headed by a single parent, that’s two million single parent families in the country. I believe much more should be done to support them.

Child maintenance is vital for the well-being of children. I don’t think that the parent with care should have to pay to apply for child maintenance when the law states that both parents are equally responsible.

Rising to the challenge

Growing up, I was labelled dramatic, overly emotional and argumentative – stubborn. I wore this as a character defect. As an adult and much more comfortable in my skin, I noticed similar traits in my daughter as a toddler. As I’m nowhere near as hard on her as I am myself, I could see her steely determination to succeed at things. The penny dropped. If I’m stubborn like her I can also be as determined. I decided that I could let my situation beat me or I could rise to the challenge. I worked hard for promotion and took myself out of my comfort zone eighteen months ago by applying for a job in local government. I found myself a mentor, studied hard and sailed through the interview. The benefits have been incredible; I now have flexible working conditions for the first time in 20 years of my working life, and last year was able to pick my daughter up from school every day because my job allows this.

I’m eternally grateful to my friends and my church family. We are regularly invited to dinner at the vicarage and our vicar and his wife even surprised us last summer by arranging us to spend a week in Devon. People ask me how I manage, and I simply answer that I couldn’t do it without the support and love of my friends.

Non-payment can have an impact on a child’s well-being
I don’t think that I can measure the impact that the lack of child maintenance I receive has on my daughter. For the most part, we manage to do a lot of things that other families do. We’ve never been abroad, but she takes part in many after school clubs along with private music lessons which I manage to pay for.

This isn’t the case, however, for most single parents who struggle to make ends meet. Child maintenance can be a vital source of income helping to pay for a child’s basic needs. But, most importantly, parents have a duty to financially support their own children and when maintenance isn’t paid, it’s children who go without.

Please join me, and support Gingerbread’s Maintenance matters campaign calling for positive change for children from single parent families.