Sunday, July 03, 2011

Work and Pensions Committee publishes report on child maintenance reforms

The Work and Pensions Select Committee has today published its report 'The Government's proposed child maintenance reforms' (quite why such a report should be published on a Sunday, I'm not sure). The report examines the Government's proposed reforms of the child maintenance system, as set out in the Green Paper 'Strengthening families, promoting parental responsibility'. I summarised the main proposals of the Green Paper in this post.

The 'headline' proposal is that non-resident parents should be required to pay child maintenance through direct deductions from their salaries or bank accounts, but this is just one of the 'conclusions and recommendations' of the report. The full list are:
  • Non-resident parents should be required to pay child maintenance through direct deductions from their salaries or bank accounts, to ensure that parents with care receive agreed child maintenance payments on time and at the correct level. I'm not sure that it would 'ensure' this - only the other day a bus company in Lanarkshire was in court over alleged failure to comply with a deductions from earnings order. I'm also not sure how this proposal improves upon the present position, when such orders can already be made if the NRP defaults.

  • The Government should find a more efficient way of administering the service, drawing on international experience and including exploring the possible use of the private sector. All sounds a bit 'airy-fairy' to me. If an efficient system has not been found after twenty years of almost continuous tinkering, I'm not sure that it ever will.

  • Where a parent with care has taken all reasonable steps to reach a voluntary agreement, both the proposed application and collection charge for the service should be borne by the non-resident parent. I'm not sure how one defines 'reasonable', or who is to be the judge of this, but I can already hear the howls of protest from NRPs...

  • There should be a single, modest administrative charge for collecting the payment. As far as I can see, the report does not suggest a figure.

  • The Government must ensure that its proposed network of improved advice and support services is operating effectively in all areas before charges for the statutory system are introduced. Stating the bleedin' obvious, although I suspect that 'operating effectively' will be open to argument.

  • How the proposed gateway process will work or who will deliver it across the country needs to be clarified. Yes, this does strike me as essential...

  • Lastly, the Government must ensure that the new system achieves value for money, delivers an improved service and learns from the previous problems experienced by the CSA. More of the bleedin' obvious...
A second volume, containing the oral and written evidence received by the Committee, will be published tomorrow.


  1. Could you please explain what the 'Gateway Process' is please? I have heard that term mentioned a few times but am not sure what it is. There is a gateway for submitting for driving license on the internet. But don't think it is that. Thanks.

  2. Have a look at my earlier post and the Green Paper. You will then know as much as I do.


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