Gingerbread calls on the Government to support single parents where child maintenance payments are stopped or reduced

Posted 9 April 2020

Gingerbread, the charity that supports single parent families, is aware that due to the COVID-19 crisis the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be allowing parents who pay child maintenance to stop or reduce the amount they pay towards the upkeep of their child without any investigation or appeal.

While we understand that many paying parents’ financial circumstances are likely to have changed due to the current crisis, it is essential to remember that child maintenance is paid by a non-resident parent in order to support their child.

Child maintenance is essential for many single parent families so that they can provide food and clothing for children, as well as ensuring that housing costs can be met. Research has shown that children in low-income households do less well than their better-off peers on many outcomes in life, such as education or health, simply because they are poorer[1]. Without child maintenance payments, many single parent families will be put at risk of being plunged into debt and poverty.

Many single parents won’t be aware of a reduction in their child’s payment until the money simply doesn’t appear in their account and the failure to ensure that parents are informed may mean that many do not plan for a reduction in income.

It is essential that the Government properly supports vulnerable single parent families and makes up any shortfall in payments to prevent more children being raised in poverty. Gingerbread is also calling on the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to inform single parents of any change of circumstance applications that will have an impact on the money their children receive.

Joe Richardson, Research and Policy Officer, Gingerbread said:

“It is crucial that children are supported through the COVID-19 crisis – this should be a priority. However, many of the children in single parent families are facing an indefinite suspension or reduction in maintenance payments they rely on. Of the many families already impacted by this, most weren’t even notified by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), and only became aware when the maintenance payments did not arrive.

“Without these payments, single parent families will be hit with a ‘triple penalty’. Having already faced the threat of seeing their income slashed and as well as having to come up with the extra costs associated with looking after children not attending school, they are also losing out on money they rely on to put food on the table. Given almost half of children in single parent families already live in poverty, the consequences of these penalties are unimaginable.

“It is clear that COVID-19 will have a negative impact on both parents’ finances. However, taking money away from the households of families and children who are already struggling needn’t be an option – let alone a first resort. Gingerbread is calling on the Government to step in during this period to immediately fill the shortfall for parents not receiving maintenance payments to ensure this doesn’t happen and children don’t suffer.”

[1] https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/does-money-affect-children%E2%80%99s-outcomes

Read more about impact of Covid-19 on single parent families

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