Press release

Putting children first – £20 million to help separating families

An extra £20 million will be made available to support separated and separating families.

An extra £20 million will be made available to support separated and separating families as part of the radical overhaul of the Child Maintenance system, Ministers announced today.

The money, which doubles government spending on relationship support in 2012/13 is part of the radical reforms to mend the broken child support system.

It will help families work out their own arrangements, rather than trapping them in the current outdated system, which has been shown to be expensive and divisive and does not put children first.

A typical case in the CSA can cost the taxpayer around £25,000 rising to around £40,000 if enforcement action is needed. Many parents already share the care of their children and it is estimated that if those made their own arrangements for maintenance this could save the taxpayer £45m per year.

Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

This is about helping to put children first in what is a difficult and traumatic time for all concerned. Most parents want to come to arrangements with a minimal disruption to their children and by offering them the right support we can help make this the case.

We need to radically re-think the support we provide to separating parents to place family responsibility and the welfare of children at its heart.  Our plans to reform the child maintenance system will enable parents to come to their own family-based arrangements which work far better for children.

The £20m for family services will be dedicated to working with voluntary and community groups on streamlining existing support and looking at what additional help is needed.

Work and Pensions Minister, Maria Miller said:

We need to rebalance our spending so more families can access the support they need to work out their own arrangements rather than default into the statutory scheme.

Even at the difficult time of family breakdown both parents must take responsibility for supporting their children.

Parents know what is best for their family, this is why we will offer further support at the point of separation to help establish a dialogue between parents and workable financial arrangements that always put children first.

The current child maintenance system is broken. At the moment the CSA costs the British taxpayer almost half a billion pounds every year - 40p for every pound moved.

A steering group of voluntary and community sector experts as well as academics have advised on how best this money should be used to coordinate existing organisations on the ground.

Karen Woodall, Director of the Centre for Separated Families, who are part of the steering group said:

We are absolutely delighted that the government is making this money available to help parents make their own family-based child maintenance arrangements. Support services, such as those proposed, will offer parents the kind of help they so desperately need around not just maintenance but other post separation issues, too.

We know that parents who make their own private arrangements are not only happier with them, but that those arrangements tend to last longer, work better and are more flexible in responding to children’s changing needs.

The group will continue to help define what is needed, which could include:

  • A web service that will be able to provide on-line material and peer to peer forums as well as signposting parents to specialist websites and local support services in their area;
  • Helpline support for separating parents who need information and contact details for specialist and local support services that could help them;
  • Coordinated local services to offer help and support.

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