Gingerbread and Surviving Economic Abuse respond to latest figures on CMS during Covid-19 pandemic

Posted 1 October 2020

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released yesterday highlights the impact of Covid-19 on the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).  The data shows:

  • An increase in compliance on CMS payments – albeit, driven entirely by the influx of non-resident parents onto Universal Credit for whom payments are deducted automatically from benefits;
  • A reduction in the gross amount paid on CMS, despite more arrangements and greater compliance;
  • Less money collected through enforcement

Joe Richardson, Research and Policy Officer at Gingerbread said:

“The latest figures show an increase to compliance on the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), which in normal circumstances would be a welcome development. However, as CMS themselves say, this figure should be treated with caution, as it is driven mainly by the significant influx of parents enrolling onto Universal Credit and having CMS payments deducted from benefits automatically, which will result in single parents receiving a measly £8 per week as contribution to the upbringing of their child.  For paying parents not on benefits, the compliance rate is still just 65%.

Gingerbread has long warned about the ramifications of CMS’ decision to run a skeleton service during the initial outbreak of COVID-19, in which they were allowing non-resident parents to reduce or withdraw their financial obligations to their children without any evidence. This has evidently had an impact – for the first time in the history of the CMS, the gross value of CMS payments and the amount actually paid reduced, despite an increase in both arrangements and compliance. The amount collected through enforcement also decreased markedly, with many of the measures CMS normally use to collect payment zeroing out as a result of the reduced service.

In more usual circumstances, the arrears figure climbed once again, with £362 million in unpaid maintenance – money that is owed to children. With CMS back in full swing, there are no longer any excuses. This service needs to move fast to ensure the children it is supposed to protect actually get what they deserve.”

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO at Surviving Economic Abuse said:

“That 6 in 10 applicants to the CMS are victims of domestic abuse is extremely worrying. This sadly tallies with our understanding that domestic abuse – of which economic abuse is a form – has increased opportunities to exert coercive control within the context of the pandemic. Added to this, we are aware that the temporary measures introduced by the CMS during the pandemic have inadvertently facilitated economic abuse. We know from our own Covid-19 survey that 8 in 10 victim-survivors of economic abuse are worried about access to child maintenance payments due to the abuser’s actions during this period. It is vital that issues within the system are addressed so that abusers are held accountable and victim-survivors are able to access the money due to their children.”

Gingerbread is supporting a Judicial Review of the CMS. The review calls for:

  • The systemic review of the Child Maintenance Service to enable it to start working for the children and parents it was set up to serve;
  • Effective enforcement where non-resident parents refuse to pay the money they owe to their children.
Find out more about the legal action and our #FixTheCMS campaign

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