On Tuesday 17 January a Westminster Hall Debate was held on potential improvements to Child Maintenance Services (‘CMS’) (see here). There were two Private Members Bills selected in the 2022-23 Private Members Bill ballot, which would change legislation around the CMS, namely:
- The Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill 2022-23
- The Child Support (Enforcement) Bill 2022-23
Currently, parents can either reach a financial agreement between themselves or use CMS’ services to work out the child maintenance amount and then allow the parents to either arrange payments (i.e., Direct Debit) or use the Child Maintenance Service to collect and pass on payments (Collect and Pay). The latter attached a collection fee of 20% (which is added to the payment) for paying parents and 4% (which is taken off the payment) for receiving parents.
Improvements to the CMS are in dire need, as highlighted by Jamie Stone’s MP there is ‘[r]oughly 120,000 children in the UK receive no maintenance, and a high number receive a meagre portion of what they are entitled to’ with ‘unpaid maintenance owed to parents … set to rise to £1 billion by March 2031’(Hansard).
Positive changes have started to occur with the Government’s plan to introduce new domestic abuse training for CMS caseworkers, which will be delivered by a third-party external agency rather than in-house, in order to better support survivors of domestic abuse and safeguard receiving parents and their children from falling into poverty. Additionally, the Government plan to protect abuse survivors from having direct contact with abusive ex-partners concerning child maintenance payments, by providing the option for parents to move to the collect and pay option, allowing claims to be made safely without direct contact between the parties.
The Westminster Hall Debate raised additional recommendations to further strengthen CMS improvements, some of which include:
- Removal of the Collect and Pay 20% and 4% fees for survivors of domestic abuse;
- Mandatory minimum payments to survivor-receiving parents and for CMS to chase the paying parents;
- Equally, an improvement to the system to stop paying parents from being unnecessarily chased by the CMS for payments they do not owe; and
- Improved communication between HMRC and CMS, particularly with respect to income other than a regular salary or wage, such as property rental income or property owned abroad.
If you require further information or support in respect of child arrangement financial issues, please contact us for a 30-minute free video chat, web chat or telephone call to start the conversation and to see how we can help. We are available 24/7 through the following platforms:
Telephone: 0345 222 0452