Child Maintenance Service “must improve”

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Single Parent Families recently met to discuss how the Child Maintenance Service must be improved for the benefit of children of single parent families across the country.

‘Making the Child Maintenance Service Work for Single Parent Families’ was chaired by Rupa Huq MP with speakers Victoria Benson, CEO of Gingerbread and Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO of Surviving Economic Abuse, as well as Gemma and Yael, two single parents who shared their first-hand experiences of the CMS.

Since the formation of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) in 2012 there has been over £435.9 million in unpaid child maintenance owed through its Collect and Pay service.

Having heard from many single parents about their frustrating experiences with the CMS, the leading charity supporting single parent families Gingerbread propose the following improvements:

  • The CMS should make better use of its enforcement powers.
  • Fairer Child Maintenance Service charges should be introduced. Currently the CMS charge a 20% fee to the paying parent based on the assessment level and 4% to the receiving parent.
  • Customer service and case management at the CMS needs to be improved.
  • The DWP must be more open about the data it shares about the CMS so that the system is transparent and open to scrutiny.
  • The service must be better attuned to the needs of domestic abuse survivors.

For many parents the CMS is their only option in securing funds from their ex-partner to support the child but wherever possible, separated parents should come to their own arrangements without the need for the CMS to be involved.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.

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