A Child Maintenance Service That Works For Children

26 Sep 2023
Girl reading a book

Every child has a legal right to be supported financially by both their parents. Child maintenance payments are vital for the well-being of children from separated families, particularly single parent families.

Yet still, around half of children in separated families, 1.8 million children, receive no support from their non-resident parent.

Child maintenance payments are primarily an agreement between the parents but in some cases the Child Maintenance Service will become involved to ensure payments are being made. But the service is not working as it should.

A National Audit Office review into the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) in March 2022 stated that the work of the CMS has “not, so far, increased the number of effective child maintenance arrangements across society”.  And the Department for Work and Pensions upholds more complaints for every 1,000 customers on child maintenance than any other area.

Service charges for Collect and Pay, the service operated by CMS, are grossly unfair, penalising the parent receiving funds for the unwillingness of the other parent to pay.

Withholding or artificially reducing child maintenance payments is being used as a form of economic abuse. Some survivors find it especially difficult to obtain the evidence necessary to get the CMS to increase the amount their abuser has to pay.

The formula used to determine maintenance payments does not accurately reflect the true cost of raising a child.

For many people, including survivors of domestic abuse, using the statutory child maintenance system is not a matter of choice – it is a matter of safety. Yet still, the Government has no strategy to improve the CMS and seems incapable of retrieving payments from parents that refuse to pay.

That’s why, today, Liberal Democrat members have passed new policy for a Child Maintenance Service that works for children:

  • A full review and reform of the Child Maintenance Service to ensure it works for all children and parents.
  • The removal of the 4% charge for receiving parents using the Collect and Pay service as well as the initial £20 charge to be enrolled onto Collect and Pay.
  • Review the formula used to determine maintenance payments to better reflect parents' circumstances, such as the age of their children and their differing needs.
  • Guidance on child maintenance payments to survivors of domestic abuse to be written into law, including direction on extracting payment from those using payments as a form of ongoing coercive control.

All children deserve to be properly supported by their parents. Child maintenance payments are vital for the well-being of children. Liberal Democrats will keep campaigning to reform the Child Maintenance Service so it works for children.




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