NAO report recommends legislation change to ensure the Child Maintenance Service is fit for purpose

Posted 3 March 2022

The National Audit Office (NAO) have today published a report highlighting that, in spite of government reform, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is falling short of delivering the support that families need.

The NAO report found that despite improvements and reduced costs, the number of families in the UK with successful child maintenance arrangements has not increased.

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO said:

 “Many separated parents are still left without the maintenance payments they are due. Welfare and child maintenance rules need to align much better to support government’s wider objectives of addressing poverty and helping people into work.”

Victoria Benson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, the national charity for single parent families said:

“While we certainly welcome the NAO’s report, it clearly shows that the Child Maintenance Service isn’t working for single parents. The report highlights systemic failings that mean children are going without – we already know too many single parent families are living in poverty. Perhaps most telling is the simple acceptance of the fact that, short of writing debts off, there is no way for Government to avoid maintenance arrears rising to £1bn by 2031. This clearly shows that there are fundamental flaws in the CMS that need to be tackled.

“Worryingly, the report reveals the number of families with no child maintenance arrangement in place has almost doubled since the CMS was established, and this is affecting children in some of the poorest families and those experiencing higher levels of conflict. This raises a red flag that the CMS is failing to reach many of those families it should be protecting the most.

“It’s clear that urgent changes need to be made to ensure the child maintenance system is fit for purpose and works for those who need to use it. Without reform more single parent families will experience poverty and more children will be exposed to ongoing disadvantage. Single parents and their children should be supported to thrive because of their family make up – not in spite of it.”

To read the report in full, visit the NAO website.