The new service for separated parents to support their children opens to all new applicants today (25 November 2013).
Over the last year the government has been gradually rolling out the new Child Maintenance Service, starting with the largest families first. It will eventually replace the Child Support Agency (CSA).
The government is reforming child support services so that separated parents are supported in coming to their own child maintenance arrangements, which is in the best interest of the children.
As part of these reforms, all separated parents applying for help with maintenance payments will first be given free information and support by Child Maintenance Options. This service is estimated to have already helped 150,000 children to benefit from family-based arrangements.
The new Child Maintenance Service will act as backstop for parents who cannot work things out between themselves, and will provide a faster, more efficient service than the current CSA schemes.
Department for Work and Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:
We are reforming the child maintenance system to help more parents come to their own arrangements. Children tend to fare better in life when their parents have a positive relationship and work together.
All parents applying for help with child maintenance will get free information and support from Child Maintenance Options first to help them work together. The Child Maintenance Service will be there for those who cannot, and will provide a better service than the current CSA.
We have learned from the mistakes of the past and are introducing these reforms gradually, using a phased approach.
The new Child Maintenance Service, using HM Revenue & Customs data, will be able to process applications and make payments more quickly than the current CSA, preventing the build-up of arrears. It will review the financial circumstances of the parent paying maintenance annually to ensure levels of payment are fair, accurate and up-to-date. For those that choose not to pay, more effective enforcement action will be taken.
New figures show that during its rollout phase, the new service has been successfully handling between 3,000 and 4,000 new applications a month.
The government is investing up to £20 million in better co-ordinated support for separated parents to work together, including coming to their own child maintenance arrangements, instead of turning to family courts or statutory services.
This includes an online web app with information that signposts to relevant support services and up to £10 million for Innovation Fund Projects to test new ways to help separated parents work together in the best interests of their children.
Over half of parents in the current CSA have said they could come to their own arrangements if they had the help and support to do so.
Read the statistics on the Child Maintenance Service for the months of August and September 2013.
The rollout of the new Child Maintenance Service began in December 2012 with parents of 4 or more children. On 29 July it opened to parents of 2 or more children.
The Child Support Agency was formed in 1993, establishing the 1993 child maintenance scheme. A second, simplified, CSA scheme was launched in 2003.
When the Child Maintenance Service is fully up and running and judged to be working successfully, the government plans to charge a £20 application fee. A 20% collection charge for non-resident parents on top of their child maintenance payment, and a 4% charge for parents with care is also planned. If the payments stop the Child Maintenance Service will step in and enforce payments.
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