I've been looking at the DWP Green Paper Strengthening families, promoting parental responsibility: the future of child maintenance, and thought I would set out a summary of the main proposals. I will not be commenting upon the proposals in this post - for a view in favour of the proposals see this press release from The Centre for Separated Families, for a view against, see this article on Family Law Week.
The proposals that I will be looking at are set out in the following diagram, part of a diagram contained in the paper:
As will be seen, it is proposed that access to the new child maintenance system will be via a 'Mandatory Gateway' (save for those cases involving domestic violence, which will be fast tracked to the 'Access to statutory child maintenance services' stage). The purpose of the gateway is "to ensure parents are first supported to take responsibility and make family-based arrangements [i.e. agree arrangements between themselves] before resorting to the statutory maintenance system". The support will include information and advice and, if appropriate, direct parents towards mediation services. If the parents are able to reach an agreed arrangement, then there will be no charge for this support.
If the parents cannot reach an agreed arrangement, then an application may be made to CMEC. Two types of service will be available: a calculation only service, and a ‘statutory arrangement’.
The calculation only service will be just that: CMEC will calculate how much the child maintenance should be. It is envisaged that the charge for this service will be in the range of £20 to £25.
A statutory arrangement is effectively a full application to CMEC for them to deal with the child maintenance, in the same way as at present. This will involve an upfront application charge of about £100, although parents on benefits will pay a fee of £50, of which £20 will be paid upfront and the remainder in instalments.
There will be two ways for the maintenance to be paid under a statutory arrangement: by direct payment to the other parent, in which case there will be no charge for collecting the maintenance, or through a collection service, which will involve a charge. The collection charge will be a percentage of the maintenance amount, anticipated to be between 15% and 20% on the non-resident parent and 7% and 12% on parents with care.
Finally, if the maintenance is not paid and CMEC have to take enforcement action then there will be a further charge for this service (the ‘enforcement charge’), payable by the non-resident parent. No figure has been suggested for the enforcement charge.
The target date for implementation of the new system is November 2012, for new customers.
The consultation period for the proposals ends on the 7th April. Responses should be sent to the DWP.