Child Maintenance Service (CMS) inquiry report published
Following its launch in July 2016, the Work and Pensions Committee have published their report on the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) inquiry. The inquiry focussed on three main issues:
- The process of moving cases from the old Child Support Agency scheme onto the new 2012 CMS scheme;
- The use of Family Based Arrangements (FBAs) and access to the statutory scheme; and
- The use of enforcement powers by the CMS particularly in cases of avoidance
The main conclusion by the committee within the report is that the ideal outcome for separated parents and their children was a fair and consistent payment of maintenance agreed by both parents and the setup of an FBA to allow this to happen. The report also concluded that the Government is right to encourage this co-operation in order to avoid so many cases being handled by the CMS that otherwise could be resolved without intervention.
However, the report also recognised that there are many separated parents who are unable to make suitable arrangements without support or even enforcement by the CMS. In some cases, a parent may have suffered domestic abuse and it will not be safe for them to continue contact with their abuser. In other cases, the paying parent may be determined to selfishly avoid their parental responsibilities, passing on financial costs to the parent with care.
In cases of avoidance it is the children who ultimately lose out and the committee reported that the Government must ensure that the CMS is working so that this does not continue to happen. The report made a series of recommendations to achieve this goal including whether the Government should review the costs that the CMS currently charge parents to become involved in the collection and payment of maintenance. These charges are currently 20% to the paying parent and 4% to the receiving parent.
The committee’s report can be found here in full.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.