Child maintenance news

It was good to see Lord Mackay opposing the government's plans to charge parents for using the CSA, although it seems that the chances of obtaining any form of concession are remote. Nevertheless, in 'response' to such opposition the Department for Work and Pensions has today announced an additional £20 million to help families work out their own child maintenance arrangements (although exactly how this money is to be used is not entirely clear).

I'm sorry, you can throw as much money as you like at helping families agree child maintenance arrangements, but that will have no effect whatsoever upon the real problem with child maintenance: the absent parents who refuse to pay. All the new system is doing is penalising the parent with care by charging them to use a service that was previously free, with no improved likelihood of the CSA actually recovering anything from recalcitrant parents.

Still, the most important thing with any government is spin, and the headline '£20 million to help separating families' looks good.

Meanwhile, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission has today released the latest CSA performance statistics, for the quarter ending December 2011. Key facts revealed by the statistics include:
  • The percentage of cases with a child maintenance liability in which maintenance is being paid rose from 77.8% as at September 2011 to 78.0%.
  • 882,600 children were benefiting from maintenance, up from 876,100 in September.
  • £1,180.1m maintenance was collected or arranged in the 12 months to December 2011 of which £121.1m was arrears. This is up from £1,168.7m in the 12 months to September 2011 of which £122.1m was arrears.
  • 89.4% of cases received in September 2011 were cleared within 12 weeks, which was actually slightly down from the 89.7% figure for cases received in June 2011.
So, generally improving performance, although I can only imagine the horrific effect that the government's proposed changes are likely to have upon the figures.


  1. well of course the lords have passed the amendment - and the govt say they will reverse it in the HoC (interesting in itself when this defeat was a) so heavy and b) led by top tories).

    but the real point is that anything from a govt agency involving the use of the word options actually means 'no options'. it's an inalienable rule.

    1. Well, I suppose there is "take it" or "leave it".

  2. Free pocket calculators for all, perhaps?

    Someone has to pay for this service and if it isn't the parents I'm not clear why it should be the hard-pressed taxpayer.

    "The real problem with child maintenance: the absent parents who refuse to pay." As far as I am aware there is no evidence to support this view. Unfortunately ministers (and others) prefer their prejudices over the facts and there has been no academic study of this issue since 1998. In that year Jonathan Bradshaw of the University of York showed that only 15% of those who don't pay had a clear ability to do so. Refusal to pay is therefore not the real problem, and you need to look elsewhere for an explanation.
    Most 'absent' parents (95% of whom are fathers)accept their financial responsibility, but they don't accept it unconditionally. Bradshaw wrote,
    "The majority want to fulfill all their parental obligations, social, emotional and financial but it seems that one is unsatisfactory without the others. The lesson for policy is that financial obligations cannot be imposed. They have to be negotiated in the context of other issues – contact, property, capital – that have to be settled on relationship breakdown."

    1. Yes, but why should the PWC pay just because the NRP is being unreasonable?

      I like your rose-tinted view of non-payment. My view comes from 25 years experience of seeing just how unreasonable NRPs can be, and the lengths to which they will go to avoid their liabilities.

      There would have to be something seriously wrong with the child support formula if in 85% of cases it requires the NRP to pay more than they can afford! I accept that a rigid formula can result in some unfair assessments, but 85%? Hardly. Anyway, the formula has of course been revised since 1998.

      As to your last paragraph, the old argument of linking contact and maintenance has been clearly (and quite rightly) rejected by family lawyers - the idea of bargaining money for contact is abhorrent. Would this mean that a parent who chooses not to see their child should have no responsibility to support them? In any event, this argument seems to contradict the earlier one that most absent parents can't afford to pay.

  3. Interesting, but it is not rose tinted glasses. Yes there are many terrible stories of NRPs (mostly Fathers) refusing to pay, but equally there are many more Fathers who want to pay, but are frustrated at being stereo-typed into being unreasonable and uncooperative when the PWC takes child maintenance as there personal allowance and does NOT use it to cover the child's needs. I pay child maintenance and then still by most of my child's needs including clothes. CSA cannot ensure that the money is used for the child. Some PWC are manipulating this system too and wasting tax payers money on agreements that SHOULD be handled directly, but use the CSA as another stick to beat the NRP with.


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