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Child maintenance set for changes as new plans sweep through parliament

Published: 11th February 2014

The child maintenance system in the UK is set for changes this week that will see additional fees apply to both parents through the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS), replacing the existing Child Support Agency (CSA). Over the next three years, the government plan to close the current CSA and and replace it with the new CMS, a service for which separated parents will be charged for.

The idea behind the charge is to encourage parents that have separated to come to an amicable agreement privately. The belief is that this should reduce the strain on government resources caused by the current free CSA system, with nearly one million CSA cases still currently open.

There will be an application fee of £20 to use the new CMS system to calculate future child maintenance payments. In addition, the CMS plans to deduct 4% from every payment to cover the costs of collecting. Parents that fail to pay maintenance will be faced with additional charges of up to 20% which will go to the government as a 'collection fee'.

Whilst these new plans have been welcomed by many as a way of getting separated parents to work together, not everyone is happy with the proposed changes. Single parent charity Gingerbread are calling on Lords and MPs to oppose the new plans, as they believe that the changes will ultimately mean that it is the children who miss out.

“The new service should have securing reliable maintenance for children at its core, but instead it will jeopardise existing arrangements and put financial pressure on struggling single parent families", said Fiona Weir, Chief Executive of Gingerbread.

“Parents will only be able to use the new collection service when their child’s other parent has repeatedly failed to pay child maintenance. It is wrong that single parents should have to lose part of their child’s maintenance because of the other parent’s unwillingness to pay.”

“One in five of the poorest single parent families could be lifted out of poverty by regularly receiving child maintenance. We want to encourage more single parents to make arrangements, but the new system will put barriers in their way. ”

Plans were originally debated in parliament back in January 2012, with many party representatives expressing concern about the new CMS system, with fears that the new charges and application process will discourage many from using the service - leading to single parents simply giving up on the child maintenance payments that are owed to them.

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