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Blanket child maintenance fees mean the poorest children lose out

Release Date: 26 Oct 2012

Today is the final day of the government’s consultation into child maintenance. Barnardo’s believes that the current proposals will result in damaging consequences for the poorest children, many of whom are raised on just 12 per person per day.

Under the new child maintenance proposals, if single parent families cannot come to a voluntary financial arrangement with their ex-partners, they will be required to sacrifice a large portion of their weekly income to pay up front and ongoing fees in order to access the child maintenance they are entitled to.

How will the proposals work?

Parents who have previously used the Child Support Agency to come to a financial arrangement with their ex-partners and who cannot come to a new voluntary arrangement will be required to pay an upfront charge of £20 and ongoing fees of 7% when they are transferred to the new statutory service.

Our snapshot survey results

A small-scale, snapshot survey of our services has revealed that many separated parents are already reluctant to access the support currently available from the Child Support Agency, as they view it as complicated and not user-friendly.

These parents would arguably be even less likely to access child maintenance with the introduction of fees.

Furthermore, a number of issues were found to prevent separated parents from making private arrangements, including the ex-partner being missing, or abusive. These parents would have no choice but to pay the fees.

Barnardo’s assistant director of policy Neera Sharma says,

Under these unjust proposals, parents claiming child maintenance are being forced into a corner, where their choice is to open up old wounds with an ex-partner or pay unreasonable amounts of money to access the new service.

If these plans go ahead we could see thousands of parents on low incomes ditch the child maintenance system altogether and it is children who will suffer from not getting the financial support that they need.

As a minimum, the government must commit to fairness and help the poorest families by introducing a sliding scale of charging.”

Our response to the government

We have over the past few months called on the government to exempt the poorest families from paying administration fees. Given that the government is intent on introducing charging, we urge that as a minimum, the government should introduce lower charging fees for the poorest families, whose children will miss out if they are forced to pay the upfront and ongoing charges.

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