Government to develop strategy for separated parents

Media Release – for immediate release 21st July 2020

FNF welcomes the Government’s publication today of their acceptance of the need for a coherent strategy for separated parents and their commitment to reviewing the formula for child maintenance

As over 3 million people sign-up to Universal Credit since March the Government must act urgently to make sure work always pays

The Government have lacked an appetite to deal with these thorny issues - in the words of Mark Twain “if you have to swallow a frog, don't stare at it too long”

The Government have today published their response to the recommendations of the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) on Child Maintenance. The SSAC, a statutory government agency, made specific recommendations. The Government response confirms it will follow-up on the key recommendation to address the lack of a ‘clear strategy for separated parents’. It’s encouraging that their response recognises the need to work across departments to develop coherent approach to reducing family conflict after separation and their commitment to discussing this further with stakeholders. Key amongst the specific issues the Government have committed to addressing is the need to ‘examine ways of improving the child maintenance formula and its links with earnings thresholds’.

Two authoritative reports by the Centre for Social Justice2, the brains behind Universal Credit (UC) and then the SSAC have pointed to the same conclusion – that there is a serious problem with the child maintenance formula. They each say that often child maintenance assessments are unaffordable to low-income parents, particularly under Universal Credit (UC). Both reports highlight that the current formula means that paying parents are often worse-off working than not – going against the whole principle of Universal Credit.

Over 3 million new applications have been made for Universal Credit since the coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, a number that seems set to rise far higher over the coming months. Already arrears of child maintenance are going up and the prospect of recovery of this amongst the poor seems low – whilst the prospect of this adding to family conflict, which is always bad for children, is high.

A spokesperson for Families Need Fathers says, “As the Covid-19 crisis unfolds, tens of thousands of parents are falling behind with their child maintenance payments, not because they won’t pay, but because they can’t.

The ongoing financial (and other) discrimination against so-called “non-resident” parents remains a scandal affecting family rights and in practice amounts to unlawful gender discrimination against fathers - and fosters dissension, making responsible shared parenting a financial impossibility.

Historically high rates of arrears are set to mushroom out of control. The lack of joined-up-thinking in the Government must be rectified and urgently so. The problem of unaffordable assessments and destructive interaction with Universal Credit has been known about for years. As millions of people lose their jobs and sign-up to Universal Credit, the need to address the problem has become ever more urgent. The Government have lacked an appetite to deal with these thorny issues – they should take heed of the words of Mark Twain ‘if you have to swallow a frog, don't stare at it too long."

Notes for editors:

Families Need Fathers - because both parents matter FNF is a registered UK charity providing information and support on shared parenting issues arising from family breakdown, and support to divorced and separated parents, irrespective of gender or marital status. FNF is NOT a fathers' rights group - we support the best interests of children - namely mature and collaborative parenting by both parents - an objective which is inadequately promoted in the family court system and associated services.

FNF receive approximately 30,000 calls a year to our Helpline and thousands more rely on our local branch network and online support.
Our primary concern is the maintenance of the child’s meaningful relationship with both parents. Founded in 1974, FNF helps thousands of parents every year.
Further information please contact us by email at or leave a message on 0300 0300 110.

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