Child maintenance service inquiry: Gingerbread written submission & supplementary note to the Work and Pensions Select Committee

Published on 18 November 2016

Summary

It is Gingerbread’s longstanding goal to help to achieve an effective UK child maintenance system, to mitigate the financial disadvantage faced by children growing up in separated households. The organisation is committed to improving the broader support given to separating and post-separated parents.

Child maintenance features in around one in five calls to our national helpline. We also receive single parents’ views and experiences of child maintenance through our membership, local groups and social media channels. We use this feedback, together with targeted research, to inform our dialogue with policymakers and ensure that the practical effect of policies on single parents’ lives is fully understood.

Key findings

  • There are significant concerns with the Child Maintenance Service highlighted. This includes: concerns that reforms are insufficient to encourage the behavioural change expected from the new system; that charging is unfair especially on receiving parents; that the needs of survivors or domestic abuse are not adequately recognised or accommodated; and that there is a limited appetite to enforce non-payment.
  • Priority recommendations are:
    • An exemption from the application fee for low income receiving parents
    • Scrapping the 4 per cent collection charge for receiving parents
    • Mandatory domestic abuse training for CM Options and CMS staff
    • Greater resource and expertise devoted to debt collection and enforcement linked to a new DWP performance target for arrears collection
    • A cross-departmental review (including DWP and HMRC) to identify ways, and develop a strategy, to close loopholes which enable maintenance avoidance.