Changes to child maintenance system could be costly

3 min Read Published: 08 Mar 2011

Proposed changes to the child maintenance system could end up costing families money if partners can't reach a private agreement regarding payments. The Government is keen to make changes to the current system to make it more efficient both in terms of service provided and the cost to the taxpayer. So, I have taken a look at the proposed changes and what they may mean to anyone going through this stressful process.

Current arrangements

At present the amount payable to a child's primary carer is organised by the Child Support Agency (CSA) based on the income and situation of each parent. The current system has been widely criticised for being inefficient and costly to the taxpayer - currently 40p in every £1 collected by the CSA goes on running costs. The Government also believes having a third party involved drives a wedge between parties creating conflict in an already stressful situation.

Proposed changes

The Government wants to encourage separating families to come to private arrangements over child maintenance and they are proposing doing this with two main reforms:

  • Firstly, is the introduction of a "gateway" whereby all parents who want to use the state system must show that they have exhausted all other avenues in an attempt to reach an agreement.
  • Secondly is the proposal to charge parents to have payments arranged by the agency and thereby encouraging private arrangements.


So what are these extra charges?

Well it depends how much work you want the CSA to do.
You can get them to calculate the amount of maintenance payment that should be paid but then make payments directly, the proposed charge for this service is £20-£25. On the other hand if you want the full collection service then there will be a proposed upfront charge to the primary carer of £100 together with a 7%-12% charge for collecting the payments. There will also be a further 15%-20% charge to the non-resident parent for collecting payments.

Conclusion

It has been clear for some time that the child maintenance system needed changing, and it's a step in the right direction to encourage parents to reach an amicable agreement. However charging for the CSA service, that is currently free, will,surely, only make matters worse where a parent refuses to fully support their family.
These proposals are under consultation until April 7 so if you want your say visit www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2011.

Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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