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PRESS RELEASE

28th November 2017 - for immediate release

Universal Credit doesn’t take into account statutory Child Maintenance payments and is pushing non-resident parents into poverty

Families Need Fathers comments on today’s Heidi Allen 10 minute Rule Bill

 Today Heidi Allen MP presented a 10 Minute Rule Motion - Child Maintenance (Assessment of Parents' Income). In presenting her bill she makes generalised and unsupported assertions that non-resident parents are registering as self-employed in order to avoid child support liabilities.

FNF does not support evasion of Child Maintenance but beyond Ms Allen’s anecdotal examples, believes not only that there is negligible evidence that self-employment is being used as a loophole for avoiding child support responsibilities but there is a major blindness  to the impoverishment of many non-resident parents.

FNF Chair, Jerry Karlin, said today “in considering this Bill, MPs must take into account that there are almost 5m self-employed people, most of whom are on very low and irregular incomes and who may genuinely have insufficient funds to live above the poverty line once Child Maintenance has been assessed using the current inflexible CMS formula. These problems are exacerbated by the roll out of Universal Credit which does not take into account Child Maintenance payments. Universal Credit was specifically supposed to iron out such anomalies for people on low income and to make work pay.”

FNF urges MPs to consider the anomalies of the following issues:

1.     Universal Credit is meant to provide a safety net to people on low incomes whilst ensuring that work always pays. Universal Credit currently fails to take into account statutory Child Maintenance payments and as a result work does not always pay for many low-income separated parents – whether mothers or fathers.  Some may be pushed further into poverty whilst others are simply unable to make payments of money that they do not have.

2.     Where such failures occur, the Child Maintenance Collection Service exacerbates the situation, rather in the way a pay-day-loan company do, by imposing an additional 20% collection fee on the paying parent.

3.       The thresholds at which Child Maintenance payments start to be made have not been adjusted to reflect increases in paying parents essential cost of living since 1998!

Furthermore, in situations where parents share care of their children e.g. 4 days with one and 3 with the other, the one with more than 50% of time receives all child-related benefits and credits and Child Maintenance payments while the other parent receives neither. This is unfair and encourages resentment.

Jerry Karlin says “It is government policy to support collaborative parenting after separation, but the Child Maintenance and Welfare systems conspire to undermine our children’s futures by their piecemeal and ill thought out approach.

Ms Allen gave examples in her 10 minute rule bill of the shocking situation of a parent failing to make Child Maintenance payments whilst living in relative luxury. This should be balanced by quoting cases that we hear of where it is the Parent With Care that lives in luxury while the paying parent is on benefits and struggling to meet Child Maintenance obligations. Such examples are just as painful for those affected. Studies suggest that the public believe that both parents’ incomes should be taken into account.”

FNF is calling on Ms Allen’s bill to be amended to ensure that Universal Credit properly takes into account statutory Child Maintenance payments.

Ms Allen sits on the Select Committee that recently completed an inquiry into Child Maintenance, and should know better.

ENDS

Background for Editors

FNF carried out a survey of over 800 service users in response to the Select Committee Inquiry into Child Maintenance last year and subsequently provided oral evidence to the Committee. The Committee’s report did not pick up on the key points being raised by FNF and further submissions have been made to the new Inquiry into the rollout of Universal Credit.

Quotations from paying parents can be found in the FNF Submission to the Work and Pensions Select Committee Inquiry into Child Maintenance last year – see here.

Heidi Allen MP was interviewed along with Michael Lewkowicz from Families Need Fathers about this issue alongside a spokesperson from the single parents’ charity Gingerbread in March this year – see here.

On 18th July 2017 Families Need Fathers attended a meeting with Caroline Dinenage MP, the Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance. On 31st August 2017 Ms Dinenage provided FNF with assurances that that the issues of unaffordable Child Maintenance calculations would be investigated by her department. We have not yet received a response.

Key references are included within our most recent press releases and other links below.

These include submissions to the Committee by Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at Royal Holloway University of London to demonstrate the problem may be found below along with our previous press release on this issue.

https://fnf.org.uk/news-events-2/press-releases/103-press-releases-2016-archive/406-fnf-submission-on-dwp-csa-cms-consultation

https://fnf.org.uk/news-events-2/press-releases/103-press-releases-2016-archive/408-fnf-gives-evidence-to-dwp-select-committee

Most recent submissions to the Work and Pensions Select Committee by FNF and Dr Davies:

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/work-and-pensions-committee/universal-credit-rollout/written/71066.pdf

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/work-and-pensions-committee/universal-credit-rollout/written/71073.pdf

For comment, case studies or information please contact: media@fnf.org.uk or call on 0300 0300 110.

Notes for editors:
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.

ENDS

Please address any queries/requests for info to FNF (media@fnf.org.uk) - 0300 0300 110.

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