The Government has today published its response to the Green Paper consultation on Strengthening families, promoting parental responsibility: the future of child maintenance.
The publication summarises the main points made by respondents in reply to the seven questions set out in the consultation, and provides the Government’s responses. Apparently, "the Government’s more detailed plans for reform of the statutory child maintenance scheme will be laid out in affirmative regulations to be introduced in Parliament over the coming months".
The questions, and therefore the responses, talk much about 'advice' and 'support' to be given to families to help them make 'family-based arrangements', i.e. to agree arrangements, and therefore save the state from the trouble and expense of doing it for them. To be honest, I'm not particularly interested in any of this. If more people can agree arrangements then great, but people who can agree have never been the problem for the child support system - the problem is those who can't agree, and more specifically, those who don't pay.
On the question of charges for using the new system, the Government believes that "there is a fair balance in the burden of the proposed ranges of charges between the non-resident parent and parent with care and that these charges will encourage clients to consider their options and what is in the best interests of their children", and that "the proposed levels of charging have been balanced to offer value for money for both parents and taxpayers". Apart from a reference to the charge that the NRP will be liable to pay, there is little mention of enforcement in the response.
Possibly the most interesting part of the response is a section on other issues raised by respondents that were outside the (narrow) scope of the questions in the Green Paper. Those issues included whether contact and maintenance should be linked (the Government has passed that hot potato over to the Family Justice Review), a greater role for the courts (again, a decision will be made after the Family Justice Review makes its recommendations) and the self-employed NRP 'loopholes' (will be looked at further).