Policy

Improving the child maintenance system

Issue

Child maintenance is regular, reliable financial support paid by one parent (the paying parent) to the other (the receiving parent) that helps towards a child’s everyday living costs.

Evidence suggests that after a separation, children do best when their parents work together in the interests of their children. Making a family-based arrangement for child maintenance is one way they can do this.

The improvements planned by the government will help separated parents work together on the range of issues they face at separation, including child maintenance.

Actions

We published the government’s [child maintenance arrears and compliance strategy 2012 to 2017 – ‘Preparing for the future, tackling the past’ on 31 January 2013. The strategy explains what the government will do to improve the collection of maintenance and arrears.

The actions will:

  • improve the collection system
  • prevent the build-up of arrears by encouraging more money paid in full and on time, every time
  • increase the amount of arrears collected

Child Maintenance Service

The government has introduced a new statutory Child Maintenance Service for parents who are unable to make a family-based arrangement. It will bring speedier processing of applications, simpler calculations and faster enforcement action for those that choose not to pay.

This will help increase the number of payments reaching children on time and in full and will result in a better use of taxpayers’ money.

Help and support for separated families

In July 2012 the government set up an innovation fund to help develop support services for separated and separating families. Public, private and voluntary sector organisations can apply for money from the fund.

Working with voluntary and community organisations we developed the ‘Sorting out separation’ web app which was published in November 2012.

Who we’ve consulted

On 19 July 2012 we published a consultation about proposals for co-ordinating support services for separated and separating families – ‘Supporting separated families; securing children’s futures’.

The proposals also explained:

  • how the new statutory child maintenance scheme will operate
  • proposals for introducing service charging to encourage collaboration
  • the way in which victims of domestic violence will be treated
  • the process of closing existing Child Support Agency (CSA) cases

The government plans to publish a response to the consultation in 2013 to explain what action we are going to take.

Background

We published a consultation about child maintenance, ‘Strengthening families, promoting parental responsibility: the future of child maintenance and the government’s response’, in 2011.

In 2006 we published Sir David Henshaw’s report ‘Recovering child support: routes to responsibility’. His recommendations included that:

  • the state should only get involved when parents cannot come to an agreement themselves or when they try to evade their responsibilities
  • parents who are able to should be encouraged and supported to make their own arrangements

Welfare reform communications toolkit

Our welfare reform communications toolkit helps explain how DWP is changing the welfare system. It covers:

  • what we are changing
  • why we are making the changes
  • when we are making the changes

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