“Supporting separated families; securing children’s futures” Gingerbread response to consultation on cm8399

Published on 18 October 2012

Summary

The government wishes to encourage more separating and separated couples to cooperate in bringing up their children post-separation, including mutual sharing of the financial costs of raising children – without the state having to intervene to reinforce parental responsibilities. Gingerbread has been an active participant in the Steering Group of voluntary and community sector experts assisting the government to deliver this agenda, which emphasises early intervention at the point parents separate. We welcome the additional £20 million in funding over the next few years to improve support services for separating parents, and will continue to work with government on this agenda.

Supporting Separated families; securing children’s futures (Cm 8399) concerns government plans to charge fees where parents use the future statutory child maintenance service, and to close all existing CSA cases.

Key findings

  • The charges to be levied against non-paying non-resident parents are intended to make them change their behaviour. DWP research and Gingerbread’s experience suggests that the motivations of non-resident parents for choosing not to support children from former relationships can be complex, often deeply fraught and unlikely to be susceptible to simple financial levers.
  • Direct pay proposals are likely to increase risk: for example financial risk for parents with the proposal for 7% collection charges; for children with proposals that previous payment records of non-resident parents could be ignored; and for those parents who are victims of domestic abuse where the abuser retains control over payment.
  • Around 70% of cases subject to case closure will have arrears. When a case is closed, once arrears have been ‘validated’, all existing enforcement action will cease and non-resident parents will be given the opportunity to pay the arrears by themselves via a ‘Direct Pay’ arrangement. This is almost certain to lead to a period of disruption for single parent families previously in receipt of arrears repayments.