Today's introduction of child maintenance enforcement fees will hit vulnerable families hardest, says Resolution

News Release

11 Aug 2014

On 11 August new enforcement fees were introduced for people using the Child Maintenance Service Collect and Pay system. These new charges, which affect both the parent with care of the child and the non-resident parent, will hit vulnerable families the hardest, warns family law organisation Resolution.

Stephen Lawson, Resolution family lawyer and member of its Child Maintenance Committee says: “We’re concerned that these new charges may put many parents off using the Child Maintenance Service altogether. This means that children in vulnerable families may miss out on the maintenance support they need and deserve.”

The new charges apply to every Child Maintenance Service Collect and Pay case, where a parent with care has asked the Child Maintenance Service for help collecting maintenance from a paying parent who has failed to make contributions towards their child’s upbringing. The charges are calculated as 4% deducted from the child maintenance payment received by the parent with care, and 20% added to the child maintenance liability for the non-resident parent.

Stephen Lawson explains: “The new charges mean that for every hundred pound assessment the paying parent will have to pay £120 but the receiving parent will only receive £96 – the Government takes a ‘tax’ of £24.”

This change affects around 120,000 people across the UK.

Stephen Lawson comments: “These charges will have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable families. No one chooses to use the Child Maintenance Service’s enforcement option if they can come to their own agreement, and penalising the parent with care for needing support to access the money they need to bring up their child is unfair – 4% of each payment could mean a lot to a family that is struggling.”

“The 20% additional charges for the paying parent are also disproportionate and may have a huge impact on the finances for hardworking paying parents. Couples who separate often find it difficult to financially manage with two households, and for some this extra fee may be straw that breaks the camel’s back. Many of the people using the Collect and Pay Service are on low incomes and these additional fees will impact on the amount received by the ultimate beneficiary – the child.”

The changes were first announced in late June by Minister for Pensions Steve Webb MP. The Department for Work and Pensions wrote to all existing Collect and Pay users notifying them of the new charges and giving them the option of switching to the free Direct Pay system.

The new charges will not apply to parents on the Child Support Agency (CSA) scheme, but the Department for Work and Pensions is looking to close all CSA cases over the next few years. The CSA will write to parents when their case is to be closed so they have the opportunity to move to the new scheme or make a private agreement.