Ruling allows legal action on CMS to be given full hearing

Posted 10 March 2023

A legal case challenging the persistent failure of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to take “proper or effective steps” to recover maintenance payments from absent parents, has been given the green light to go ahead to a full judicial review hearing.

The Claimants in the case – single parents who complain of persistent inefficiencies in the system and of delays in investigation and enforcement against non-resident parents – argue that the significant problems with the CMS are causing them “significant and prolonged financial difficulties” and “pushing them into poverty”. They argue that a systemic review is required, as is effective enforcement against non-resident parents.

Gingerbread, which has provided evidence for the litigation, now intends to apply to “intervene” in the case to provide additional information to the Court. Day in, day out, we hear from single parents 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:

  • A third (36%) of children covered by Collect and Pay arrangements are not receiving a penny of the maintenance they are legally entitled to[1]
  • Since 2012, when the CMS began, £512.6 million in unpaid maintenance has accumulated[2]
  • If child maintenance was 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].

After permission for the judicial review case was initially refused, a High Court Judge granted permission for the case to proceed at a hearing last week.  We wrote to the court ahead of last week’s hearing offering updated information about the continuing flaws in the CMS system. As a result of the Court’s decision to grant permission for judicial review, the court will now consider the lawfulness of how CMS is currently operating.


[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