Each month, our advisers answer your questions. See what questions were asked in February, and what advice we gave.

Child Maintenance enquiries

I made a CMS claim for support in August last year as my ex-husband left his job to set up a limited company to avoid paying CMS for his son. He earns around £1,000 a week, and has a daughter from another relationship but won’t pay CMS for her either. I haven’t received a penny in support in six months. The CMS have just been sitting on HMRC information since mid-December and I keep explaining that there is no point sending a DEO to his new employer as it’s his company and home address, and he is the sole director and employee.

Is there anything I can do to get support? I’m frustrated and the CMS are no help. They won’t mark anything as urgent/priority or use any powers even though he has avoided all correspondence for six months. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Our advice

We’re sorry to hear about your experiences with the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

It’s not clear if the CMS calculated how much child maintenance you should get after your claim last August. If the CMS haven’t calculated your entitlement yet and you feel they’re not acting quickly enough, you can make a complaint.

If a calculation has been done by the CMS but there are missing payments, you might find it helpful to read our information about enforcing payment of CMS child maintenance which sets out the powers the CMS has, and what you can do if you think they’re not taking enough action.

If you want to challenge a CMS calculation, or would like any other advice about CM, you can ring our helpline for advice on 0808 802 0925.

Appealing Child Maintenance

I receive maintenance from one parent for looking after my grandson, but this was £26 a week from 2016, and in January 2017, it was taken to the work place. It has taken until December 2018 for mom to respond and has now been dropped to £23 per week.

When I had a calculation on arrears in December 2017, there were £300-something arrears and now there are £198 arrears. I think the arrears haven’t all been paid back, and I challenged CAS but they are standing by what they say in which I think there is some lies as they say they’re going off work and Inland Revenue which I don’t believe they are.

If someone works 30 hours and picks up £226 a week with tax credits and has another child to support, doesn’t calculating to £23 a week mean the employer is not paying minimum wage? So why are the CSA lying to me? I can’t seem to make sense to them what I mean and they are saying different. Do the CSA get figures from the work place? Because it’s not until July that you have a review. Thank you.

Our advice

You’ve explained that you challenged the Child Support Agency (CSA) but they’re standing by what they say. If you’ve already requested a mandatory reconsideration (MR) of a CSA decision and received a letter to say that the decision hasn’t been changed, you could appeal against the decision to an independent tribunal. You should appeal within one month of the date on the MR letter, although if you’ve missed this deadline, you may still be able to appeal if you have special circumstances. You can find more information about how to appeal CSA decisions on our website here.

As you mention a review in July, we wonder if your case is with the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) rather than the CSA, as the CSA doesn’t usually carry out annual reviews. If your case is with the CMS, the information above won’t be relevant and our information on appealing CMS decisions is in the process of being updated.

If you contact our free helpline on 0808 802 0925, we can explore your case in more detail and advise you on what action you can take.

Universal Credit

Can you tell me when I may be moved onto Universal Credit? I am single parent with five children aged seven, five, four, two and two, and I receive Child Tax Credit.

Our advice

If you‘re claiming Income Support in addition to your Child Tax Credit, you can’t usually continue to claim Income Support once your youngest children turn five – unless you’re caring for someone receiving certain disability benefits. If you aren’t working at that point, you may need to consider if you’d be better off claiming Universal Credit.

It’s possible that you may need to claim Universal Credit before your children turn five as the Government plans to move people in receipt of Tax Credits and certain other benefits over to UC between July 2019 and 2024. This process is referred to as ‘managed migration’.

The Government hasn’t yet set out the dates for individual claimants to be moved over to Universal Credit over the next few years. They have said that this will begin in July 2019 with small-scale testing to ensure that processes work well before the volume of managed migration increases. The Government intends to test the managed migration process for claimants on all benefits and in a range of circumstances, at each stage adjusting and amending its processes and journey according to how claimants respond.

The rules haven’t yet been fully decided for those who will be moved to Universal Credit under ‘managed migration’. We can’t advise you fully on what UC you’ll get until these rules are known, which should hopefully be within the next few months.

You can contact our free Helpline on 0808 802 0925 if you need more advice.