Charities believe that the Government service which allows parents to pay their share towards a child is not being used because it charges fees. Separated parents who do not live with their children are legally obligated to provide child maintenance, however it’s said that only a third of them do.
Child Support Arrangements
The Scottish charity Fife Gingerbread say that they believe the service isn’t being used by families to track down absent parents because it isn’t free of charge. The Child Maintenance Service was developed to replace the CSA. It is designed to work out a child maintenance amount which can be legally enforced, collect the payment from the paying parent and give it to the receiving parent. However, to deter people from using it, the service charges a £20 fee and takes a 20% collection fee on top of the payment from the paying parent, and 4% from the receiving parent.
Adding a fee to the service is aimed to encourage parents to come to a family based agreement, but charities say that single parents are put off using the service as a result of the fees. This is often the case for relationships which have dissolved and been left in a bad state where no amicable arrangement can be made.
The manager of Fife Gingerbread said that the charity sees children every day who are living in poverty as a result of decisions that their parents are making. She added that they see parents who find it ‘exhausting’ to pursue child maintenance so they choose not to entirely. The manager stated that some parents would rather ‘starve themselves’ than further drain energy by chasing payments. She spoke of her disappointment that there seems to be an emerging culture in the UK where we ‘silently accept’ that people can have children and then just ‘walk away’. She added that she believed that the silence is similar to the former silence around domestic violence which used to occur 20 years ago, and she hopes that by speaking out, that the silence can be broken.
Fife Gingerbread is now working with Citizens Advice, Poverty Alliance and One Parent Families Scotland to conduct research in the area. They are asking local parents affected by the issue to come forward, but they are interested in hearing from all sides, including from the perspective of a paying parent.
The spokesperson for Fife Gingerbread said that the charity understood that the topic of child maintenance could be ‘extremely emotive and painful’ so they have set up an online survey which is anonymous.
To find out more information about child maintenance, call the CSA contact number.