The Government is inviting views on plans to bring the child maintenance system back into the heart of government, in order to improve accountability and assist in the process of reform.
It is proposing to transfer the functions of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) into the Department for Work and Pensions, under direct Ministerial control.
Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller said:
The Government is clear about how important strong family relationships are for children. If separation is unavoidable then we want to do much more for parents at the time of the split to put their children’s interests first.
We can do this by bringing together the expertise of a range of public and voluntary sector services and our proposals to bring the child maintenance system back under direct control of Ministers will help in that process.
The current Child Support Agency schemes are set to close to new users from next year. This will see the end of a failing system, long overdue for reform, replaced by a single new, streamlined child maintenance service. This will be the biggest overhaul of the system since it was first set up in 1993.
The abolition of CMEC as a non-departmental body will also help with the Government’s drive to reduce the number of public bodies across government.
The DWP are consulting on this structural change from this week. The Government’s wider child maintenance reforms are designed to ensure more separated parents have effective financial support in place for their children for the first time. Parents will be supported and helped to make their own, family-based child maintenance arrangements, which, research shows, more than half of parents who currently use the statutory system would prefer.
A new, streamlined and more efficient statutory child maintenance scheme, replacing those currently run by the Child Support Agency, will be introduced for those who need it.
Notes to Editors:
The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is a non-departmental public body set up in 2008. It is responsible for the child maintenance system in Great Britain, including the statutory maintenance service currently provided by the Child Support Agency and the Child Maintenance Options service.
With around 8,000 employees, its primary objective is to maximise the number of effective child maintenance arrangements in place for children who live apart from one or both of their parents.
CMEC does not perform a technical function, require political impartiality or need to act independently to establish facts. It has not, therefore, met the three criteria as set out by the Minister for the Cabinet Office for retention of non-departmental public body status.
The consultation will last for three months. The full consultation document can be viewed here: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2011/cmec-abolition.shtml