Research published on self-employed child maintenance paying parents

A quick heads-up for some research published by the Department for Work and Pensions today exploring the attitudes and behaviours of self-employed child maintenance paying parents towards the payment of child maintenance.

I've not read the full 52-page report, but the summary indicates some interesting, if expected, findings. In particular, the reasons for non-compliance under the current (CSA) system. Barriers to compliance included:
  • inability to afford payments due to low or fluctuating income;
  • prioritisation of other bills (e.g., related to ‘survival’ such as rent and heating, work-related expenses, or bills with high costs for non-compliance). This seemed linked to a perception that the cost of non-compliance was low; respondents felt that response from the CSA after non-payment was often delayed or unpredictable;
  • a perception that liability calculations and payment schedules were unfair and did not adequately take into account other factors such as income flow, periods of sickness, support provided outside the statutory system, system errors, etc. Clear (written and verbal) communication and explanation about how liability is calculated could help reduce barriers around illegitimacy. More transparent procedures around how to adjust (perceived) incorrect liability amounts are also required;
  • a perception that child maintenance payments were not being spent on the child – at times resulting in complete rejection of statutory maintenance obligations. Paying parents wished to see measures or communications in place to alleviate their concerns;
  • resentment about a government ‘interfering’ in personal affairs and focusing only on financial child support. This can result in a framing of child maintenance payments as merely ‘paying the CSA’ rather than linking it with supporting their child;
  • negative experiences with the CSA including system errors, perceived disorganisation or inflexible and ‘judgmental’ tone of staff further undermined its legitimacy for some;
  • a perception that paying parents were ‘treated as criminals’ and assumed to be at fault, even when they were willing to pay. Many parents thus felt morally justified in ‘fighting back’ with non-compliance.

Most of which is pretty predictable. Also predictable was the finding that respondents did not think that the application fee under the new (CMS) system was high enough to deter many receiving parents!

The research can be found here.