North Devon MP Nick Harvey has asked Ministers to look again at charges for child support services.
Under arrangements brought in in 2012, a £20 application fee now applies when parents begin using the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). A 4% administrative charge is also levied where one parent fails to pay up and the CMS has to intervene to take payments directly from their salary.
Recent figures revealed a 38% drop in the number of parents applying to the Child Maintenance Service since the new arrangements were introduced.
In the Commons this week Nick asked Minister Steve Webb to respond to the figures, and whether he thought the charges were putting parents off. The Minister said Nick was raising an important point, and that the Department was looking into why, after contacting child support services, some people do not go on to use them.
Nick said: “Some of my constituents – who are working hard to make ends meet and support their children – understandably feel unfairly penalised by charges under the new child support system.
“When their ex-partner fails to pay up, the other parent sees 4% of the support payments they rely on to get by taken away. I fear that many parents are also finding new application fees of £20 particularly off-putting where money is tight, and may be deciding it is just easier to go without.
“Child support payments are essential to give children a fair start in life, and they should not be punished for their parent’s failure to support them.
“The Government are evidently trying to encourage ex-partners, where possible, so sort things out between themselves – but in some cases this just can’t happen so recourse to the CMS is a necessity. I hope Ministers will re-examine these charges and look very carefully into research on the issue.”
(from a press release)