Child Maintenance Reform – Key Facts

Evidence shows that children benefit when parents work together to sort out financial issues after separation.

But half the UK children living in separated families do not benefit from effective child maintenance arrangements. This is despite a statutory system of child maintenance that costs the taxpayer almost £ ½ bn each and every year.

The numbers of children affected are estimated to be around 1.5 million – which in tough economic times is clearly cause for great concern.

Following on from the publication of The Family Justice Review last year the Government are now beginning the process of reforming the existing Child Maintenance system to address these issues.

On 19th July 2012 the Child Maintenance Command Paper Supporting separated families: securing children’s futures was published.

This paper sets out the Government’s vision and plans to reform the child maintenance system so that it supports parents and encourages them to collaborate with each other.  The Government believes that this reform will work in the best in the interests of children and encourage separated parents to make family based arrangements rather than rely on costly state intervention.

Prior to this command paper the Government published the Green Paper Strengthening families; promoting parental responsibility; the future of child maintenance.  This set out the Government’s approach to the new child maintenance system: placing a greater emphasis on supporting parents to make their own arrangements; a new statutory scheme for those unable to do so which continues to be heavily subsidised, with service charges for the use of the statutory scheme to provide a financial incentive on parents to collaborate.

Hence the Command Paper builds on those ideas set out in the Green Paper.  It provides more detail on services for separated and separating families, the new statutory scheme, which will be branded the “Child Maintenance Service” and how the existing Child Support Agency (CSA) gives parents a choice about whether to make a family-based arrangement or apply to the new scheme.  The Government’s aim, through all of the proposed measures, is to encourage that collaboration.

The Command Paper is also a consultation providing the opportunity for people to contribute their views on the proposals on charging and the closure of CSA cases. The consultation begins today, 19 July and will run for 14 weeks.

OnePlusOne will be responding to this consultation.

For more on making effective maintenance arrangements go to our service for separated parents theparentconnection.org.uk.

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