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FNF Submission on DWP CSA-CMS Consultation

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release                                                                    20 October 2016

Detachment of child support from wider family life impoverishes children and can damage both parents

 

Families Need Fathers tell Work and Pensions inquiry into child support it is open to them to step beyond the polarised way the discussion on child support has been long entrenched

 

Current approach provides perverse incentives to minimise time children spend with their non-resident parent

 

The continued detachment of child support from the wider picture of family life is contributing to the impoverishment of children whose parents live separately and creates a perverse disincentive to meaningful co-operation between the parents.

In its submission to the current select committee on work and pensions inquiry into child maintenance Families Need Fathers – Because Both Parents Matter report the insights drawn from the experiences of more than 800 responses to its recent consultation among members and supporters.

Comments from the biggest ever response to an FNF consultation include:

“I feel worthless as a parent. The only interest in me is that I pay!”

“It almost destroyed me” (many)

“If not for my family the CMS would have made me homeless!”

“I have less than £100 a month for food, petrol etc.” 

“As a result, the children consider me to be stingy”

“the lack of means testing or consideration of circumstances results in callous extraction of finances”

“I earn £20,000 a year my ex earns approx £60,000 I struggle to pay my bills and am denied access [by my ex] to my children. This should be taken into account”

“[the CMS/CSA calculation] has a perverse incentive to for the resident parent to keep contact as low as possible”

“Total mental breakdown. I will never work again”

Jerry Karlin, Chair of Families Need Fathers says: “Our child maintenance system is poorly thought through and (perhaps unintentionally) actively undermines shared parenting. It discourages both parents from working and pushes many into severe hardship and poverty. For the sake of our children, it must be reformed.

It isn't just the moral mark of a civilised society that fatherhood should be respected and supported for the benefit of children after separation and divorce. There are shelves full of research findings that children do better when both parents are involved in their life. The tunnel vision of CMS and its various predecessors has done great damage to our children by polarising the interests of separated parents. Too many dads have been degraded and abused by the blunt instrument of the CMS in its present form.”

FNF notes the content of a separate (unconnected) submission to the Select Committee by Dr Christine Davies setting out how low income Non Resident Parents struggle to pay when their child support payments represent marginal tax rates of 90% or higher - sometimes even above 100%.  In other words, what they are expected to pay can exceed what they earn in certain circumstances. See Dr Davies' submission here.

FNF's complete submission to the select committee containing our consultation findings, including further quotations from respondents can be downloaded here.

FNF - Because Both Parents Matter is a charity that primarily supports non-resident parents (NRPs) – a perspective that tends to be dismissed as special pleading.

FNF’s report to the select committee urges them to note that it is open to them to step beyond the polarised way the discussion on child support has tended to be debated. The Committee may realise that it is not special pleading to point out how and when CMS practice works against the broader public good of supporting productive and constructive relationships between both parents and their children.

Drawn from FNF’s response to the DWP’s consultation and from FNF’s daily casework, FNF's submission to the select committee points out:

  • Current Child Maintenance calculations after separation and divorce are outdated and simply not fit for purpose. They belong to a bygone era where dads were family providers and mums stayed at home to care for children. Their approach presents as unacceptable gender bias in modern society.

    • They discourage collaborative shared parenting after separation and divorce. Focussing on 'payers' and 'receivers' encourages a winner takes all approach where only one parent receives £ thousands in child benefits even if parenting is shared equally.

    • They add to family conflict and contact denial. Too many well motivated mothers are discouraged from agreeing to a child spending more time with his/her non-resident parent which is in the interests of the child because it may reduce the money she receives.
    • In cases that go to court, argument is ostensibly about the fitness of one or other parent but is often in reality about how child maintenance is affected.

 Average spend on child contact legal proceedings reported by respondents to FNF’s consultation to see their children was £23,000. Over 10% spent £50,000 or more. For most it will be the most they spend on anything apart from their house and is money lost to their children – and disregarded by CMS.

  • The effect of these difficulties on tens of thousands of non-resident parents is to leave them feeling disenfranchised, hurt and wholly unvalued as parents: Parents in name only and in the CMS view, good just for one thing - money. 
  • The image of the ‘deadbeat’ dad persisting since it appeared in a notorious DWP press release is simply not a reality. It’s demeaning to the tens of thousands of non-resident fathers that FNF deal with. They love their children and most NRPs greatly invest themselves, their careers and money in order to be good dads.
  • CMS/CSA service is simply too blunt an instrument for ensuring that all children are well supported and often results in unintended negative consequences for children and parents alike. The rules:
    • Take no account of relative income of the two parents
    • Disregard the effect on the children of the 23% of NRPs from other relationships
    • Take no account of NRP’s outgoings let alone minimal cost of living
    • 15% of NRPs report being driven into poverty, debt and ill health, some report suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts
    • Current approach disincentivises work. 17% reported they had opted out of work completely
    • 62% report their earning capacity has been reduced
    • CMS 20% collection surcharge when NRPs have payment difficulties push many further into debt and despair
    • These shortcomings deprive families with children of over £200m a year……and huge amounts of love and parenting.

ENDS

Note to editors:

FNF's complete submission to the select committee containing our consultation findings, including further quotations from respondents can be downloaded here.

The FNF survey of members and supporters across the UK drew 810 responses to an online survey results received between 5th and 26th September 2016.

Please address any queries/requests for data to Michael Lewkowicz at FNF (michael.lewkowicz@fnf.org.uk).

Scottish media contact Ian Maxwell at FNF Scotland (ian.maxwell@fnfscotland.org.

Families Need Fathers - because both parents matter
FNF is a registered 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.

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.

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FNF HSSF Kite Mark Award

Families Need Fathers has been awarded the Help and Support for Separated Families Kite Mark which is a new UK government accreditation scheme for organisations offering help to separated families.

Families Need Fathers work with a range of family law professionals, including Family Law Panel

 

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