Kids aren’t free: the child maintenance arrangements of single parents on benefit in 2012

Published on 1 June 2013


Gingerbread, in partnership with NatCen and Bryson Purdon Social Research, looked at child maintenance arrangements among low income single parent families (those receiving out-of-work benefits in 2012) – assessing their impact, longevity and likely impact of reforms.

Key findings

  • In 2012, child maintenance lifted one in five single parents on the lowest incomes who received child maintenance out of poverty
  • Before changes to allow receiving parents to keep their child maintenance, rather than treat it as income for benefits means-testing, the maximum that parents receiving maintenance could be better off was £10 a week; by 2012, the average amount of maintenance received by single parents receiving benefits was £23 a week
  • Private arrangements (or ‘family-based arrangements’) seem difficult to sustain over time – although four in ten (40 per cent) single parents on benefit had or had tried to make a private arrangement at some point, half had since moved to a CSA arrangement or none at all
  • Reforms to the statutory child maintenance system risk making parents poorer – either because they will have to pay fees to use the new system, or because they give up on child maintenance altogether
  • More active engagement and tailored support is needed to encourage making maintenance arrangements, involving both parents.