The policy document sets out 'key improvements' to the child maintenance system, including:
- Coordinating existing services Better co-ordination of existing support services and to build an evidence base of ‘what works’ in helping parents to collaborate.
- Telephone and online support Several existing helplines already do an excellent job in helping parents with separation. These organisations will deliver a new service that will help mothers and fathers to work together whenever possible. A specially developed web ‘app’ will provide online information and support.
- Local support Funding for regional coordination and training to help join- up support services and the wider community on the ground. For example, health professionals would be able to signpost a parent to expert help with the financial issues surrounding separation.
The headline-grabbing aspect of the new plans is the penalty charges for failure to pay. As the Department for Work and Pensions says in this press release: "it is proposed that a Liability Order from the courts will carry a £300 surcharge, while £200 will be charged if money has to be removed from their bank account via a lump sum Deduction Order." It seems to me that all this will do in many cases is add to the amount that is never recovered from the absent parent, but perhaps I am just a cynic.
The consultation will begin on the 19th July and end on the 26th October.
And as for the title of this post, I have already recently complained about the modern jargon that it appears we must all now endure. Well, as we already know, if you want to use the new 'Child Maintenance Service' (the latest name for the Child Support Agency), then you will have to go through a 'Gateway'. It seems that it will not be satisfactory to describe the help that you will then get from the Service as 'advice'. Instead, we are to be saddled with the particularly absurd expression 'Gateway conversation' to describe the process whereby they explain your options to you. Such is progress.