Call to scrap child maintenance fees
Currently if separated parents use the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to calculate the amount of child maintenance payable from one parent to the other, the parent seeking the application is charged a notional fee of £20. The CMS send copies of their calculations to each parent and try to encourage them to set up their own payment arrangements.
There are times where it is just not possible for separated parents to do this amicably and in those circumstances the CMS can step in to collect money from the paying parent and pass it on to the receiving parent. In those cases both parties are charged under the CMS “Collect and Pay” service. The paying parent is charged a fee of 20% of the child maintenance amount and the receiving parent is charged a 4% fee.
Gingerbread, the leading charity for single parent families, is now calling on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to scrap these fees as they deem them unfair to parents. This call came as figures released by the DWP showed that there is currently £408.3 million in arrears owed to children across Great Britain. The figures also show:
- 100,900 children are not receiving the child maintenance owed to them through ‘Collect and Pay’
- 28% of parents (42,000) are not paying any of the child maintenance they owe under ‘Collect and Pay’
- Since December 2020 overall arrears owed to children have increased by £12.5 million under ‘Collect and Pay’.
Victoria Benson Chief Executive of Gingerbread said “It is a child’s legal right to be supported by both parents, and the Child Maintenance Service was established to help to enforce this right. Yet the very service designed to protect this right is not only failing them but charging them, too. While it’s right that the government should collect maintenance on behalf of children where it is not willingly paid, it is incredibly unfair that fees are deducted from this money before it is passed on. Children are going without as a result of these fees being deducted and it simply cannot be right that a government service is responsible for this.”
Government figures show that in 2019/20 £6.77m was collected in fees from maintenance owed to children. This is on top of a 20% fee charged to paying parents who use the ‘Collect and Pay’ arrangements. Gingerbread supports a fee being charged to paying parents who do not willingly pay the maintenance they owe their children but does not agree that receiving parents should pay either the application fee or the 4% levy. They feel it is the children who lose out due to these additional fees being charged.
At Barker Gotelee our family law solicitors can help will all manner of issues separated parents may face when it comes to their children and dealing with their ex-partner. Contact our team now to find out more about our initial consultation process and what we can do to help.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.