Child Maintenance Service debate in Parliament

Child Maintenance Service (CMS) debate in Parliament

The Child Maintenance Service was debated on 27th February 2024 and is reported in Hansard (LINK). The debate was about the report CMS published last April by the select committee on Work and Pensions and the government’s response, published in July which we have covered in past newsletters.

Essentially it is about proposals to beef up the rights of the CMS to pursue non-payers of CMS by allowing them to issue liability orders without reference to courts, and various other changes to enhance the sanctions that can be levelled against non-payers.

What is interesting are the statistics revealed by Stephen Timms, the Labour MP who opened the debate.

  • In March 2022 there were 2.5 million separated families in the UK.
  • In about one third of these families, child maintenance is paid in full.
  • About 500,000 are on direct pay or collect and pay.
  • About 1 million families have a family-based arrangement regarded as satisfactory.
  • Setting up the CMS in 2012 to replace the old, believed to be ineffective Child Support Agency, has not increased the number of CMS payments and they have no idea why not.

Much of this we are already aware of, and it comes as no surprise but then Stephen Timms makes a stark and welcome statement:

The maintenance assessed for some parents—I think this is now widely acknowledged—is unaffordable in some cases, causing serious hardship…because inflation over the past quarter of a century has not been allowed for, someone earning £15,000 today should, according to the scheme’s original intentions, be paying £364 per year in maintenance, but is actually required to pay almost 10 times that or £3,500 per year.

Putting 2 and 2 together isn’t it obvious why there are 1 million non-paying parents? The fact is for many on low pay, child maintenance is simply unaffordable and no amount of extra sanctions is going to improve that.

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