Single and separated parents who have previously received no maintenance from their former partner could start receiving payments for the first time, as reform of the child maintenance system starts to affect existing cases.
As many as 50,000 children may be newly eligible for maintenance, the government has estimated, as a 3-year process of closing all existing Child Support Agency (CSA) cases gets under way. A new advertising campaign to raise awareness is launched today.
Under sweeping reforms of the child maintenance system, the CSA has already stopped taking on new cases, with newly-separated parents encouraged to make their own family-based arrangements or use the new Child Maintenance Service instead.
Now, in the next phase of the changes, the agency is beginning the process of closing its 800,000-strong historic caseload.
Initially, the DWP is writing to around 150,000 parents with details of when their case is due to close and advice about the next steps they should take. Although there is no need for anyone to act until they receive a letter, once parents receive notification of their closure date they are urged to consider their options.
The case closure programme is beginning with so-called “nil-assessed” cases – those in which, because of the circumstances of the non-resident parent, no maintenance has been due. Because of this, some parents may feel there is no point in responding to the letter they receive.
But because the parents’ circumstances may have changed since the initial assessment was made – plus the new statutory child maintenance system is much more robust, using data from the tax authorities – it may be that maintenance becomes payable once a new assessment is carried out. Therefore, all parents are encouraged to act.
Child Maintenance Minister, Steve Webb MP, said:
We’re reforming the child maintenance system because we want to get more maintenance to more children. This process provides parents with an opportunity to re-consider their child maintenance arrangements and our estimates show that as many as 50,000 children could benefit.
I would urge anyone who receives a letter from the CSA about their case closing to look carefully at the options, as they may be surprised at the support available to them.
Parents whose CSA cases are closed are encouraged instead to make their own family-based arrangements – with £14 million ploughed into projects around the country that help parents work together in the interests of their children. If that’s not possible, they can take advantage of support available from the new Child Maintenance Service.
Whichever route they choose, advice and support is available online or on the phone from the new Child Maintenance Options service – 0800 988 0988 or www.cmoptions.org.uk
To raise awareness of what’s happening amongst parents currently using the CSA, the DWP has launched an advertising campaign across newspapers, radio and the internet. The first press advertisements appear today.
The campaign, which uses the slogan “We’ll keep you in the loop”, informs parents that they will be written to ahead of their case being closed; that they need not take any action until they receive a letter; but that support will be available to help them decide on their next steps when the time comes.
Information has also been placed online at www.gov.uk/csachanges
Images and audio clips of the advertising campaign material are available to journalists from the DWP Press Office.
Example advert –
The Child Support Agency is gradually closing its cases over the next 3 years and these parents will have the choice to make their own maintenance arrangements or use the new Child Maintenance Service.
Cases will close in sequence over time to ensure there is minimum disruption of maintenance payments, starting with nil-assessed cases and ending with those cases with ongoing enforcement action.
The new Child Maintenance Service encourages more parents to make their own maintenance arrangements between themselves, with a modernised, efficient system for those who cannot. It will replace the Child Support Agency by 2017/18, when all CSA cases have closed.
Read in-depth detail on the government’s child maintenance reform programme
Media enquiries for this press release – 0203 267 5106
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