Gingerbread’s Response to Changes to the CMS to Protect Survivors of Domestic Abuse

Posted 17 January 2023

The Government has announced new powers for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to better support survivors of domestic abuse who wish to claim child maintenance from their ex-partners.

A review into the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) policy and procedure around domestic abuse was recommended by a Domestic Homicide Review (DHR), which was carried out after the death of Emma Louise Day. Emma was a CMS customer trying to claim child maintenance from the father of her youngest child, who had repeatedly threatened Emma before finally killing her as she walked home from the school run in May 2017.

Victoria Benson, CEO of Gingerbread, said:

Dr Samantha Callan’s review was much needed – even before the horrific murder of Emma Day.  We welcome its publication and we are pleased that many of Gingerbread’s recommendations have been acknowledged. It is particularly important that the Government is supporting recommendations to ensure parents who have experienced domestic abuse can more easily access the Collect and Pay service – we look forward to seeing how this will work in practice.

“It has long been apparent that CMS staff need more training and support when handling cases with a history of abuse particularly where coercive control and financial or economic abuse is taking place – we look forward to this being rolled out. It’s also helpful that the CMS has acknowledged the value of single, named caseworkers in complex cases. Single parents have told us this will make a big difference to their experience of using the CMS and we welcome this approach being rolled out across the service.

“It’s extremely disappointing that there is no firm commitment to exempt survivors of abuse from ongoing charges levied by using the Collect and Pay system. It’s completely unjust that any receiving parent has 4% of their child’s maintenance taken from them because they are forced to rely on the CMS to collect payment on their behalf – either because of financial abuse or to keep themselves safe. We urge the CMS to scrap these unfair fees.

“We know that survivors of abuse have been discouraged from using the CMS as it can expose them to their abuser. This must change. We need to see a system that ensures children receive money they are owed from non-resident parents while the CMS genuinely protects those who have lived with domestic abuse or violence.

“We welcome these changes but this government must do more for all those who use the CMS. It’s critical that the system protects women from abuse or even death. The CMS must use its powers to shield children from poverty and ensure they receive money that is due to them – even when one of their parents refuses to pay to support them. This government must make the CMS effective, otherwise it will continue to allow economic abuse and coercive control through enabling persistent non-payment. This ultimately hurts not only single parents but also their children.”