For immediate release 15/6/2017
Why does Mother’s Day always get more attention than Father’s Day? Popular narrative on a mother’s position still casts her as the primary carer, yet all the evidence suggests that the role of fathers is vital, undervalued and in need of far more recognition and support, especially in separated families.
Children born today have a 50% chance of their parents separating before they reach 16 years of age. The consequences are far more pernicious that most people realise. Family separation affects around 180,000 children every year. 90% of these children will end up living with only one parent, almost always mum. According the Office of National Statistics (ONS) 3.8 million children have no paternal involvement at all. This is hardly surprising given that 40% lose contact with their fathers within three years of separation and only 15% are still in contact with their fathers by the age of 15.
The evidence of poor outcomes for children growing up without paternal involvement is overwhelming. The risks to mental health, school, future relationships and work are doubled for children not enjoying some kind of responsibly shared care by their parents whether together or apart. These difficulties are also linked to higher rates of crime, teenage pregnancy and other disadvantages.
Families Need Fathers are asked by thousands of parents a year, mostly dads, for support with maintaining their relationships with their children after separation.
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.”
Paul Apreda, National Manager of FNF Both Parents Matter Cymru and FNF Trustee addressed the Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee evidence session together with Dr Sue Whitcombe - Chartered Psychologist.
16th February 2018 - for immediate release
FNF tells BBC Radio 4 Money Box programme that Heidi Allen MP’s Child Maintenance Bill gets headlines by focussing on the problems of the rich.
But she fails to address the underlying problems of child support for both separated parents.
DWP officials undertake to investigate issues of ‘affordability’.
As backbench MP Heidi Allen’s Child Maintenance Bill approaches its second reading on 23rd February, BBC Radio 4 Money Box Programme is looking at the problems with the current child support system.
Taking part in the programme FNF spokesman Michael Lewkowicz says the system is still set up to pit separated parents against each other and undermines any goodwill they may have to collaborate in the parenting of their children.
The reality is that for the vast majority, separation affects both parents financially but the anecdotal cases on which Heidi Allen relied at the first reading of her 10 minute rule bill diverts attention from the problems of the majority.
Specifically, the current formula for Child Maintenance:
I am writing this open letter to you as we are being contacted by many service users who are anxious about your draft Child Maintenance (Assessment of Parent’s Income) Bill which is due to have its second reading on 27th April 2018. We were pleased to have had the opportunity to provide evidence relating to Child Maintenance to the Select Committee for Work and Pensions inquiry that reported last year1. The report did not address key points we raised and we suspect that, had it not had to be prepared in a hurry prior to the dissolution of Parliament on 3 May 2017, it may have resulted in a more balanced and authoritative report and perhaps a more even-handed draft bill.
We are pleased to report, however, that the evidence on affordability that we and Dr Christine Davies of Royal Holloway University of London submitted to the Committee has been accepted by DWP to be accurate and they have begun assessing the scale of the problem and potential remedies. Frank Field MP suggested on 26 February 2018 that we write to you directly about these. We were disappointed to learn that you felt unable to make the time to discuss our concerns and suggestions for amendments to your bill prior to its second reading. We respectfully ask you to reconsider so that we can discuss the proposed draft so it may be amended uncontentious during its passage through Parliament.
I would like to thank the Committee for inviting us to give oral evidence to its inquiry on 16 November 2016 and for recommending in its report that the Department for Work and Pensions consult us as a stakeholder group. I am pleased to report that those meetings are going ahead and have been productive. However, the consultation was a year and a half ago and the issues being raised in your draft bill were not discussed, nor were we consulted on the bill itself. Also, the key matters not being taken into account in the draft bill are:
We want children to be properly supported whether they are jointly or singly parented, however, there are fundamental flaws in the formula for Child Maintenance that make it unaffordable for many paying parents. The problem applies both under the old benefits system and under Universal Credit, resulting in paying parents on low income being pushed into poverty or out of work. It means that, for many, work does not pay. The fact that Universal Credit and other benefits do not take into account Child Maintenance for either receiving or paying parents is, in our view, an omission that makes the system not only unfair to parents, but an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer.
With a good deal of the focus of your proposed bill being on self-employed paying parents we think it helpful to consider that the average income of those in self-employment is £12,500 per annum or £240 a week2; £228 after deductions3.
Someone on such an income with two children would need to pay £45.60 a week4 Child Maintenance. If they lived in outer London, a single ‘box’ room in a house share would cost them around £100 a week, if they had to travel to work daily on London Underground their transport costs might be over £40 a week, leaving around £40 a week or £6 a day to live on, buy clothes, pay for visits to children, etc.
Add to this that many of these parents will be part of the ‘gig economy’, on zero hours contracts or receiving irregular income, is it surprising that many struggle to meet Child Maintenance demands derived from assessments that don’t take into account their essential costs of living? Currently CMS will not take into account variations in income unless they exceed 25%. We propose that this variation threshold should be no more than 7% to 10%.
You may recall one of the case studies in the VT on the Victoria Derbyshire Show last year 5 showed a father who was a children’s entertainer. We have no information on that case, but can’t help but wonder what kind of income he may have and how regular that is. From the tone of the piece, we also wonder whether he is seeing his child(ren). Involved dads are far more likely to be supportive financially if they are not prevented from contributing their love and care.
Given the above, it is upsetting to many of our service users to see certain sections of the media refer to them offensively using the general term ‘deadbeats’ even if they are experiencing genuine difficulties with payments of Child Maintenance based on an unworkable formula. A number of fathers reported to us feeling upset and hurt by the use of this word on the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s website6. We agree with them that it plays to a stereotype and does not assist in creating a culture of constructive engagement. We ask the Committee to review this and remove the word ‘deadbeats’ from its website.
We draw your attention to the fact that the Government supports shared parenting after separation, but the current CMS formula does not and on the contrary penalises parents who do. When parents share care 50/50, unless they agree amongst themselves not to claim Child Maintenance via CMS, only one parent will receive 4/7 of assessed Child Maintenance (and all
the other benefits!) whilst the other receives nothing and still has to make payments, irrespective of relative income. The single parent charity Gingerbread agreed that there is a problem when they gave oral evidence to your committee, stating that “there should be a look at those shared care rules where at the moment it is just a source of dispute between parents”7. We urge you to consider adding a section to your proposed bill to address this anomaly. It would be very unfair to continue to ignore it.
We note that at the first reading of your bill it was stated8 that the issue of non-payment was “forcing the parents with care on to benefits” and is a “double hit to the taxpayer”. We agree that tax evasion is bad and needs to be dealt with by HMRC, however, it should be clarified that welfare support is provided to the ‘Parent With Care’ irrespective of whether they receive no child maintenance at all or £1,000 a week, so unless this too is addressed there will not be a saving to the taxpayer.
FNF agree with you that this rule does not work. It needs to be replaced with something more sophisticated. In its current form, it is open to abuse by both receiving and paying parents. When financial matters are resolved in court, judges have an opportunity to review in detail both parties’ finances, responsibilities and agreements. It does not make sense that a mere 12 months later such agreements can be discarded and a far more crude CMS formula applied. Paying parents may, as you suggest, seek to hide or diminish their income and end up with much lower payments. Similarly, receiving parents who agreed in court not to claim Child Maintenance, for example, in return for the paying parent clearing shared debt, may then renege on such agreements by applying to CMS after 12 months to claim a share that is far in excess of what was already agreed in court.
We have pragmatic and fairness concerns about this as currently proposed. This test was scrapped a few years ago because it did not work. DWP have stated in their recent consultation9 that many of their investigations into lifestyle beyond stated earnings revealed that the lifestyle was financed by debt rather than income. In any event, any such test, to be fair, should take into account both parents’ financial positions. We often see paying parents who live in poverty, unable to provide a few treats for their children when they visit, whilst their ex-partners enjoy a lavish lifestyle and receive Child Maintenance from them. Most paying parents, however, are on low incomes and many are carrying debts resultant from legal fees whilst seeking to maintain relationships with their children after separation, so this proposal, even if effective, addresses a small minority problem.
We have stated in the recent DWP consultation10 that
“Until work is complete on assessing the affordability of the current Child Maintenance Formula and its failure to reflect shared parenting arrangements it would be wrong for draconian enforcement measures to be introduced that will push some paying parents out of work, into deeper poverty, despair, ill health and suicide. Until this work is done, current proposals place the cart before the horse”.
We further, respectfully ask, you to review in detail the response we prepared to the DWP consultation on Child Maintenance last month which is enclosed/attached for your convenience. We also hope you might take-up our invitation to meet, not just with us, but with our service users at one of our support meetings. The proposed draft of the bill will mostly affect a small number of high net-worth individuals. Can it be right, when there are so many fundamental flaws with current arrangements, that such a piece-meal, selective approach is taken? We feel sure that a more even-handed approach will result in more workable and fairer legislation with better outcomes for tens of thousands of children in whose interest it is, we trust, proposed.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Director of Communications
cc: Select Committee
Work and Pensions Committee
Frank Field MP (Chair)
Kit Malthouse MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary DWP
14th June 2018 - for immediate release
The Government’s response to the Women and Equality Select Committee’s Report on Fathers in the Workplace is letting down women, men and above all, children.
In failing to go for a forward-looking paternity leave solution,
the Government has shown itself to be desperately hugging the past
The Government hide behind ‘complexity’ and ‘culture’ whilst failing to recognise their own responsibility by acting as an obstacle cultural improvements. The evidence is clear, those countries that offer properly funded, non-transferable paternity have achieved:
The trigger for such changes was when such funding was made non-transferable as many Scandinavian countries demonstrate. The evidence is in research from Sweden and other nations. The evidence is in the report of the Women and Equalities Select Committee. The evidence is in the many submissions to the Select Committee, including from ours at Families Need Fathers.
A recent study by Dr John Barry of University College London found that men treasure fatherhood. Their sense of responsibility to their own children trumps all other concerns, and their own fathers are the biggest influencers on their attitude. We don’t need to wait for cultural change that is there already, but is being undermined by outdated Government policies.
Chair and Managing Trustee of Families Need Fathers, Jerry Karlin says “The Government seem stuck in a bygone age where fathers were expected to be ‘providers’ and mothers ‘carers’. This way of life may be common for some MPs, but it does not reflect how people live their lives today or how they would wish to live today. For a working couple on average wages the Government subsidises maternity leave by around £7,500 and paternity by a paltry £290 – a gender pay gap of 96%! What is more, they continue to support gender inequality in society as a whole. It’s a cop-out”
 Fathers and the workplace: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report of Session 2017–19 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmwomeq/1076/107602.htm
 Shared Parenting in Sweden – Living in Two Homes - Malin Bergstrom, Karolinska Institute
 Fathers in the Workplace – Women and Equalities Select Committee 18th March 2018 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmwomeq/358/35803.htm
 Families Need Fathers submission to the Women and Equalities Select Committee Inquiry into Fathers in the Workplace – September 2017 - http://data.parliament.uk/WrittenEvidence/CommitteeEvidence.svc/EvidenceDocument/Women%20and%20Equalities/Fathers%20and%20the%20workplace/written/48111.html
 The Harry’s Masculinity Report by Dr John Barry, University College London http://www.menandboyscoalition.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/The-Harrys-Masculinity-Report.pdf
FNF Background for EditorsFamilies 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.
Please address any queries/requests for info to FNF (firstname.lastname@example.org) - 0300 0300 110.
The Government’s new Child Maintenance and Arrears Strategy published today proposes write off much of the £4bn of Child Maintenance arrears is right, pragmatic and welcomed. The vast majority of such arrears were accumulated over a quarter of a century and are for relatively tiny amounts. Many of those assessed simply did not have the money to pay it at the time. Most cases of arrears have arisen largely because of:
Monday 15th October 2018 00:01
Analysis: Huge Increases in the Use of Non-Molestation Orders since Scrapping of Legal Aid (LASPO)
Thousands misuse abuse orders to get Legal Aid
37% increase in 5 years since LASPO
Chances of being hit with a Non-Molestation Order depends on where you live
Children are denied good parents by bad court orders
The system needs new checks and balances
to avoid abuse of innocent parties and children
The will of Parliament on bail conditions is being bypassed
FNF call on Family Courts and police to complete investigations
within three months and to deal firmly with bogus claims of violence
Families Need Fathers (FNF) is a national, UK shared parenting charity concerned with the welfare of children in the context of family separation. Changes in legislation over the last six years, designed to save money or protect people who have been subject to abuse have also had unintended consequences – ‘collateral damage’ harming or destroying healthy child-parent relationships and fuelling parental conflict.
Families Need Fathers has completed a review of trends in Non-Molestation Orders (NMOs or Non-Mols) usage. NMOs are injunctive Civil orders designed to protect anyone who has been abused from further abuse. Over 26,000 such orders are now issued annually. Following a period of decline in their use, there was a significant, immediate jump in their numbers following changes legislation in 2013 that scrapped Legal Aid in private family proceedings unless domestic violence is claimed (as opposed to shown) to have been involved. A further spike in their use has occurred since 2017 when legislation changes to increase scrutiny on the police when they wish to extend police bail without charges led to this back door approach being exploited to get around the scrutiny.
Since these legislative changes came into force NMOs have increased by 7,249 cases a year, an increase of 37%.
On Saturday 23rd June Families Need Fathers, the UKs leading Shared Parenting charity, held a conference on the theme of restoring confidence in Family Justice. The Rt Hon Lord Justice McFarlane delivered the keynote address, tackling issues of domestic abuse allegations and parental alienation and the need to have early findings of fact in such cases in order to meet children’s welfare interests. He also charted a course for the future