Gingerbread supports legal action against the DWP to address critical failings of the Child Maintenance Service
Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families, is partnering with Mumsnet and the Good Law Project (GLP) to support four women who have sent a Letter Before Claim to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of their intention to seek a Judicial Review due to:
“…the persistent failure by the Child Maintenance Service to collect child maintenance payments from absent parents leaving the parent with primary care of the children in financial difficulty and in some cases in poverty.”
Child maintenance is the money a non-resident parent should pay to support their child’s upbringing. There are many ways in which separated parents can agree child maintenance payments. Many go through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) and use either the Direct Pay or Collect and Pay service. Over 700,000 children are covered by these arrangements. However, failings of the CMS, mean that there is currently £354m in arrears owed to children.
This isn’t a new problem, the Child Support Agency (CSA), which was replaced by the CMS in 2012, also failed to ensure maintenance was paid and between the CSA and CMS over £4bn of maintenance payments have gone unpaid. The Letter Before Claim lays bare the systemic failures within the CMS:
- Around a third (43%) of children covered by Collect and Pay arrangements are not receiving a penny of the maintenance they are legally entitled to
- There are £354m in arrears, yet just £31m has been collected through CMS enforcement actions – less than 10% of the figure that is owed
- Despite over 100,000 non-compliant parents and the enforcement powers the CMS has, just three passports were confiscated in 2019.
This non-payment means many single parent families are living in poverty. Research has shown that for those who are owed maintenance and are living in poverty, being paid the child maintenance they are due would lift around 60% of them out of the poverty trap.
Gingerbread and the claimants are calling for:
- The systemic review of the Child Maintenance Service to enable it to start working for the children and parents it was set up to serve.
- Effective enforcement where non-resident parents refuse to pay the money they owe to their children.
-  DWP (2020) Child Maintenance Service statistics: data to December 2019. Table 11
-  HoC Library (2019) Child maintenance: the multi-billion-pound write-off of arrears on Child Support Agency cases (GB).
-  DWP (2020) Child Maintenance Service statistics: data to December 2019. Table 6
-  DWP (2020) Child Maintenance Service statistics: data to December 2019. Table 12.1
-  DWP (2020) Child Maintenance Service statistics: data to December 2019. Table 12.2