Gingerbread joins legal action on CMS

Posted 15 August 2023

We’re pleased to announce that Gingerbread has received permission from the courts to “intervene” in a legal case to challenge the persistent failure of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to take “proper or effective steps” to recover maintenance payments from absent parents.

The claimants in the case argue that problems with the CMS are causing them “significant and prolonged financial difficulties” and “pushing them into poverty”.

As “third party-interveners”, we hope to provide the court with our view on how the CMS is working for single parents. At Gingerbread we hear day in, day out from people who are being seriously let down by the system. They tell us that they are owed thousands of pounds from their child’s other parent and that all too often the CMS is failing to put enforcement action in place to recover it.

Wider evidence shows that:

  • 140,000 children are not receiving a penny of the maintenance they are legally entitled to[1];
  • since 2012, when the CMS began, £547.9 million in unpaid maintenance has accumulated[2];
  • if child maintenance were paid in full to all children in separated families living in poverty who currently do not receive financial support from their other parent, it would have the potential to lift 60% of them out of poverty[3].

We have already provided evidence to the court at various stages to highlight that the experiences of the claimants are typical of how the system operates and are not isolated incidents.

We were pleased to report in March that the case was given permission to proceed to a full hearing. The case will be heard at the High Court 3rd-5th October.

Other action on the CMS

Our work on this legal case is part of our broader campaign to make the CMS fit for purpose. Along with other charities, we recently supported two new Bills on the CMS to become law. The two new bits of law seek to make things better for survivors of domestic abuse using the CMS and to strengthen the enforcement powers of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) against non-paying parents. However, with total arrears sitting at £547.9 million, we are concerned that the changes won’t go far enough. That’s why we’re involved in this legal case.

We’re calling on MPs to meet with us at party conferences in Autumn to find out more about the shortfalls of the CMS, the changes needed and how they can support their constituents with CMS issues – please join us in these calls, and contact for more information.

Gingerbread also jointly provides the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on the CMS. An All Party Parliamentary Group is a group of MPs from all parties who come together to work on a particular issue. As part of the secretariat for the group, we help the MPs involved in organising meetings. The next meeting of the group is on 12th September and will be looking at domestic abuse and the CMS. To attend, please contact for the Zoom link.





[2] Ibid

[3] Hakovirta et al (2019) Child Poverty, Child Maintenance and Interactions with Social Assistance Benefits among Lone Parent Families : A Comparative Analysis. Journal of Social Policy. pp. 19-3