The last series of changes to the Child Maintenance Service comes into effect

Published: 12th August 2014

The final stage of the project, which sees the new Child Maintenance Service replace the old Child Support Agency system, is the launch of an innovative online self-service facility which allows separated parents to manage their own maintenance arrangements and log any correspondence relating to these arrangements like phone calls, letters or other enquiries.

This facility acts as a central place to store all records of any ongoing maintenance arrangement and allows them to make and receive secure payments online - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, through an internet-banking style system. The system has been developed to allow parents to have control over their arrangements and to allow them to keep track of all maintenance payments themselves.

The government have promised that the new system is there to 'break from failures of the past, which saw children miss out on support' and are incentivising and encouraging parents to co-operate in an amicable fashion and to act in the best interests of their children.

"The new online facility is an important part of the new service and I have no doubt that it will very quickly become a normal part of child maintenance management for many families."

"But most importantly, the new system encourages parents to work together in the interests of their children and will help many to take the state out of their maintenance arrangements altogether", said the Child Maintenance Minister, Steve Web.

This new online facility has received a lot of interest, with over 600 people having already registered in advance to use the new system.

These last series of changes are part of an overall reform, which will see the old Child Support Agency being phased out and closed down over the next 3 years. The launch of the new online facility follows on from the first phase of changes, which were implemented earlier this year.

A £20 one-off application fee was introduced earlier in the summer for parents wishing to use the new Child Maintenance Service, with enforcement charges that range from £50 to £300 for parents who try and evade paying child maintenance altogether.

The new Child Maintenance Service has mostly received a positive reaction, although some have suggested that it could be the children that miss out.

Single parent family charity Gingerbread expressed concerns that this may the case, with Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir saying, "The government’s new charges will take money from children. Child maintenance makes a real difference to children’s lives and it is simply wrong for the government to take this money because their other parent has failed to pay when they should."

"It’s really important that parents don’t let the charges put them off getting a child maintenance arrangement in place. Lots of parents can and do sort out maintenance between them, but it’s not always possible, and single parents shouldn’t be put off asking for help when they need it."

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