We campaign with single parents to make sure their voices are heard and taken seriously – in the workplace, in the headlines, and in the corridors of power nationwide.

There are around two million single parents in the UK, making up a quarter of all families with dependent children. Single parent households have also been the group hardest hit by tax and benefit reforms since 2010.

At Gingerbread, we know that single parent families face a number of issues which affect their everyday lives. Our campaigns, from Maintenance Matters to Single Parent Strength, aim to challenge social stigma and influence decisions which matter most: from childcare and child maintenance to flexible working and welfare.

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Scrap the Child Maintenance Service’s Collect and Pay fees

Gingerbread is calling on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to scrap the fees that single parent families have to pay to use the Child Maintenance Service’s (CMS) Collect and Pay service.

Parents use the CMS’ Collect and Pay service when they can’t agree child maintenance payments between them. The CMS will work out how much child maintenance should be paid from the paying parent to the receiving parent. It can also arrange for the money to be paid to the receiving parent and their children as part of their Collect and Pay service for a fee.

However, it is clear that Collect and Pay neither collects or pays the child maintenance owed to many single parent families.

Why we are campaigning on this issue

1. Collect and Pay is unfair. The CMS charges a 4% fee to receiving parents which is deducted from the money for their child. This means that these fees are shouldered by the children.

“…it’s just unbelievable that the child would have to pay 4% out of their money when they’ve never done anything wrong.”

– Gingerbread parent

2. Collect and Pay is not delivering. The CMS allows paying parents to build up huge arrears which means receiving parents and their children are forced to go without in order to make ends meet.

Since the formation of the Child Maintenance Service in 2012, there has been over £408 million in unpaid child maintenance owed through Collect and Pay.

60% of all children in single parent families who are living in poverty and not receiving maintenance would be lifted out of poverty if they received the child maintenance they are entitled to.

3. Collect and Pay is not working. The CMS charges receiving parents a £20 application fee for a service that cannot guarantee to collect the money their children are entitled to.

4. Collect and Pay is unethical. The failure of the CMS to collect money consistently allows the continuation of economic abuse and control in abusive relationships as child maintenance is given at the discretion of the paying parent.

“The balance of power is completely wrong. I have to basically keep him sweet so that he contributes.”

– Gingerbread parent

We believe single parent families should not have to pay for a service that is broken and fees for the Collect and Pay service need to be scrapped.

How you can support our campaign to scrap Collect and Pay fees

• Write to your MP about this issue and ask them to take action to #ScrapCollectAndPayFees now.

• Post your support on social media with the hashtags #ScrapCollectAndPayFees and #FixTheCMS

• Tag your MP in a tweet and call for them to stand up for single parents

• Share the campaign with your friends and family

• Donate to Gingerbread to support our campaigning work


Legal challenge to #FixTheCMS

Gingerbread, alongside the Good Law Project and Mumsnet, is supporting four women who have issued a Letter Before Claim to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of their intention to seek Judicial Review due to the failure by the CMS to collect child maintenance payments from their children’s non-resident parent, leaving them and their children in financial difficulty and, in some cases, in poverty. We have received confirmation the letter has been received, and the claimants’ representatives are finalising their respective applications for Legal Aid.

Why we are supporting this legal challenge

Gingerbread has long campaigned for improvements to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to ensure that children’s right to financial support is upheld.

Child maintenance (sometimes referred to as ‘child support’) is vital for separated families and the well-being of children.

Academic research has found that in the UK, for children of single parents, who are both in poverty and not receiving maintenance, child maintenance payments actually being received would lift them out of poverty in around 60% of all cases. [1]

Children growing up in poverty is unacceptable, especially when government has the resources at its disposal to change it.  This challenge will seek to ensure the CMS puts these resources to good use.

Children deserve better and urgent action is needed to #FixTheCMS.

How can you support the campaign to #FixTheCMS?

Help us to raise awareness about the campaign and make sure single parent voices are heard.


[1] 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. 19-39. ISSN 1469-7823


Government listens to parents’ child maintenance concerns

The government has announced new ways to limit child maintenance avoidance and tackle non-payment – directly responding to the concerns of single parents and our Maintenance Matters campaign. Changes include:

  • Ways to tackle child maintenance avoidance including increasing the ways to challenge a calculation by reintroducing the ‘assets variation’, making it easier and quicker to include unearned income data held by HMRC in a calculation and more resource for the Financial Investigation Unit
  • New powers to tackle unpaid child maintenance including collecting maintenance from joint and business accounts

These announcements are a welcome step forward in our campaign for a fairer Child Maintenance Service.

Domestic violence training for Child Maintenance Service (CMS) staff

Frontline staff working for the CMS including Child Maintenance (CM) options will now receive mandatory domestic violence training. Gingerbread, alongside MPs and other charities, has campaigned for steps to be taken to ensure staff communicate sensitively and respond appropriately to survivors of domestic violence. As a result, the government has piloted a new training scheme, which is set to roll out nationally in 2018. This is a fantastic step forward for our Maintenance Matters – achieving real change towards a fairer CMS.


Single parent families to pay less for family holidays

Our ‘We are the 1 in 4’ campaign calls for fairer family ticket prices for one-parent families. We were thrilled when Virgin Holidays announced they were introducing tailored single parent family prices for their holidays in the Caribbean. This is a fantastic example of what the campaign is calling for – a recognition that families come in all shapes and sizes, and that family ticket prices should reflect this.

Government announces closure of a loophole in the Child Maintenance Service (CMS)

A small number of non-resident parents are avoiding payments by having a joint bank with a new partner. New rules, brought in within a few months, will enable the government to take owed child maintenance from joint bank accounts – this could mean an extra £390,000 will be collected.

We’ve been campaigning to close loopholes in the CMS that allow paying parents to avoid paying accurate and timely child maintenance. We know this announcement only scratches the surface, but it’s a welcome step forward.

London Mayor provides more support for childcare

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is introducing a new childcare deposit scheme across all organisations in the Greater London Authority (GLA) including Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police. The announcement was a direct result of our Upfront: a childcare deposit guarantee campaign  supporting parents to pay for the upfront costs of childcare and helping them to (re)enter employment. We continue to work with the London General Assembly to support their plans.

Maintenance Matters

Child maintenance provides essential help with the costs of raising a child – from the day-to-day expenses of food, clothing, travel, and school expenses, to the costs of running a child’s main home and providing a decent quality of life. Money isn’t everything, but children don’t come free.Less than half of single parents receive the child maintenance payments that they are entitled to. It is clear that the government is not doing enough to ensure the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) works for single parents.Together with single parents, we’re campaigning for a fairer child maintenance system that puts kids first.

Why the campaign matters

Child maintenance can make a huge difference to the wellbeing of a child from a single parent family.

  • Children living in single parent families are twice as likely to be living in poverty
  • Child maintenance lifts one in five single parents out of poverty
  • Child poverty is predicted to almost double among single parent families over the next few years, so regular financial support for children from their other parent matters more than ever.
We are the 1 in 4

Why the campaign matters

Time and time again, single parents tell us about the stigma and discrimination they face, and the financial and emotional implications this has for them and their children.

For example, single parent Emma tried to buy a family ticket at her local cinema, but was told she couldn’t because she wasn’t a ‘real family’.

Unfortunately, Emma is not alone. We know that many single parents have to pay more for the same family deals, tickets and memberships as a coupled family simply because they are a one-parent family.

What we’re campaigning for

We’re campaigning for single parents to be fairly represented and treated equally in society.

As part of this, we are calling on companies to recognise that families come in all shapes and sizes. We want companies to ensure their prices do not discriminate against single parent families.

Single parents should not have to pay more than coupled families for the same family deal.

Take action

Help us put pressure on companies that discriminate against single parent families and celebrate those that are inclusive.

Tweet or post your photos of:

  • A family deal that does include single parent families – so we can celebrate it!
  • A family deal that doesn’t include single parent families – so we can call on them to change.

Either tweet your photos to @Gingerbread and include #WeAreThe1in4 or email it to


All Mayoral candidates commit to improving London’s childcare

We called on the next Mayor of London to better support parents to pay for the upfront costs of childcare, helping them get back into work. We secured meetings with the top five mayoral candidates to discuss how they could commit to Upfront: a childcare deposit guarantee. All candidates committed to the campaign – they recognised how this could help parents get back to work, offer more accessible childcare, and meet the needs of London’s 320,000 single parents. Single parents shared their own experiences of juggling work and childcare in a series of campaign blogs.


Tax credit cuts scrapped

The government proposed cuts to working tax credits to take place in April 2016. This would have had a devastating impact on the lives of many single parent families. We campaigned alongside single parents to speak out against the proposed cuts. Parents wrote campaign blogs, were active on social media and attended meetings in parliament to discuss the importance of tax credits – allowing them to make ends meet.

Money Matters

The End Child Poverty coalition launched its Money Matters campaign in response to the government’s plans to remove income as a measure of child poverty. We called on the government to maintain income-related measures of child poverty – although poverty is a complex issue, we know that income matters to children’s lives. Thanks to the efforts of thousands of online campaigners, we successfully lobbied the government and secured a commitment to publish details of household income. As a result, the government is still accountable and can be continue to be challenged on child poverty.


Cuts to child maintenance charges

We lobbied the government to drop all charges introduced for parents accessing their Child Maintenance Service (CMS). We secured a reduction in the upfront fee single parents have to pay to access the service from £100 to £20. We also succeeded in cutting collection charges for single parents from seven per cent of their maintenance payments to four per cent. This reduced the financial burden for thousands of single parent families across the country. Gingerbread continues to campaign for a fairer CMS for single parent families.

New Report