Think-tank Identifies the ‘Hidden Parent Poverty Trap’ of Child Maintenance

Think-tank Identifies the ‘Hidden Parent Poverty Trap’ of Child Maintenance

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) have completed their report into Child Maintenance (CM) under the title 'THE HIDDEN POVERTY TRAP: Child Maintenance and Universal Credit'.

The report identifies many of the issues that we have been campaigning on. Their findings are essentially same as ours - that some of the poorest people are being asked to pay money they do not have and for whom work does not pay.

Their recommendations are:
1. That Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) urgently review the number of people affected if Universal Credit (UC) is rolled out.
2. To avoid the politically sensitive issue of reducing CM to receiving parents, they suggest a complete reform of Child Maintenance on the Australian/Norwegian/US Income Shares Model that takes into account both parent's incomes and cost of living allowances.
3. That UC calculations should include Child Maintenance.

Whist the focus of this work was the interaction of UC and CM, the issues exist under the existing 'legacy' benefits.

The recommended Income Shares Model is at odds with the idea of simplicity of child support and we may wish to thinks further about better ways. If shared care was the norm then it would not matter so much.

Meanwhile, please bring this work to the attention of your MP and ask others to do the same, especially if affected by the 'poverty trap' of the current system. Please ask your MP to raise your experiences with the minister, perhaps suggesting some or all of the points we are calling on the government to do:

  1. immediately stop surcharging the poorest and most vulnerable parents who are on state benefits
  2. urgently update Chile Maintenance payment thresholds for cost-of-living increases since 1998
  3. adjust Universal Credit to take into account Child Maintenance, in-line with CSJ recommendations
  4. carry out a wholesale review of Child Maintenance to meet the needs of modern-day families with a particular emphasis on promoting and not undermining shared parenting.

Obviously, the formula is very flawed beyond that, in undermining shared parenting and promoting conflict. However, the affordability issue is the primary one addressed by this report.