The Child Maintenance Service, which replaced the CSA, says that victims of domestic violence can use its direct money transfer system to keep personal details private. However, many paying parents are not keen on using the service as it can charge a collection fee in some circumstances.
The Daily Star revealed that one woman was told to give her bank details to her abuser, rather than the CMS collecting it on her behalf. The 28 year old woman spoke to the media saying that she had finally ‘found the courage’ to leave her abusive partner who had been convicted of harassment. The woman was in the process of applying for a restraining order, but said that when she contacted the CMS about payments for their young daughter, was told to give her ex partner her bank details, as he could not afford the collection fees which came with the collect and pay service. She added that she did not want to deal with the man as she was scared that it could ‘start again’.
The founder of Mumsnet has expressed her dismay to the CMS, telling the media that people with abusive ex-partners are ‘particularly vulnerable’ when negotiating fair child maintenance payments. She added that the Child Maintenance Service could put sufferers of an abusive relationship ‘at further risk’ of ‘losing out financially’.
A spokesman for the DWP defended the CMS, stating that they understand domestic violence victims must have ‘extra support’ and that their cases are often fast tracked and they won’t have to pay the £20 application fee. Lastly, he said that the DWP is working in close proximity with the financial services industry so that maintenance payments can be made without having to reveal personal details including bank details.
New applications for child maintenance are dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service. The CSA only handles existing cases and will eventually dismantle, transferring all cases to the CMS. Fees for applying to the CMS were introduced in June 2014 and in August that year, the CMS introduced fees for collecting and paying child maintenance, if you use the collect and pay service. The collect and pay service means that you do not have to deal with your ex partner at all, and the payments are taken directly from their wages or benefits. You don’t have to pay collection fees if you move to Direct Pay (where you arrange the payments yourself) or if your case is managed by the CSA.
In difficult circumstances, you can ask someone to deal with your child maintenance case on your behalf. This could be a relative or friend, but is useful to know if you are a victim of domestic violence.
To get more information regarding the Child Maintenance Service, you can speak to Child Maintenance Options. Child Maintenance Options provide free, impartial advice about which method of child support payments will be most beneficial to you and your children. Call the CSA contact number for more information or to get help with an existing case.