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CMS Consultation : Powers of entry and information

* The deadline is Monday 11th February at 2 pm *

CMS is consulting on a proposal relating to Powers of Entry(a) and Information(b).

Details of the consultation can be found here

"Powers of Entry" already exist. Under this proposal, CMS would obtain a warrant to enter premises when seeking information that may assist them in determining or enforcing Child Maintenance Assessments.

The "Information" proposal deals with extending powers to seek information about a paying parent from their mortgage lender or pension provider, not least to assess what assets they have and how much equity there is in their property.

Read More for FNF's Analysis and views on the proposals and details for submissions to the consultation...

The first proposal, on the face of it, seems to provide modest new safeguards to privacy through judicial oversight. It may also make it easier to enter premises and a warrant could become a 'rubber stamping' exercise. It does not address the issue of whether the assessments made in the first place were fair or reasonable. 

The second proposal extends powers further, again without first reviewing the current unfair formula for child maintenance. It focuses on enforcing historic failures to pay Child Maintenance using a Charging Order or an Order For Sale (of a property). The consultation says that this will affect fewer than 300 cases a year. This proposal raises a number of concerns:

  • It does not stipulate what criteria will be used to determine the cases where such reviews might be requested, so once the powers are granted they could be extended to thousands of cases.
  • Many people reach ‘clean break’ agreements in family courts. However, after 12 months CMS will disregard these if an application for an assessment of Child Maintenance is made. We don’t think such carefully reached agreements should be overturned in this was and as long as that is in place, consider these additional powers to be draconian and one-sided.
  • The data obtained will be used for the evaluation of income from notional assets which under changes introduced in December 2018 assumes an unrealistic 8% return for calculating Child Maintenance. 
  • CMS and CSA have a history of getting things wrong and forcing a sale of someone’s house is a major thing to do if it turns out that the assessment was incorrect.
  • These 300 cases a year will drain energy into high net worth cases rather than putting resources into enabling the vast majority of separated parents to better support their children.
  • The proposals seek to strengthen enforcement of payments using an unfair formula, not least in relation to shared parenting. In situations where care of children is more-or-less equal, one parent is still required to pay maintenance, irrespective of each parent’s income. Reductions in assessments make a 1/7 reduction for each night a child spends with the paying parent. A fair assessment would make a reduction of 2/7 per night so that 50/50 care meant that neither parent is assessed for any Child Maintenance as they both take equal care of their children. We cannot support further enforcement of a formula that is so fundamentally wrong.

Please submit your individual response to the consultation by Monday 11th February 2019 at 2 pm.

Responses may be sent by email to policy.development@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

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