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12 June 2013

Child maintenance reforms will 'penalise single parents'

Proposals to reform the child maintenance system will leave many lone parents worse off, causing children's welfare to suffer, research suggests says an article in Children & Young People Now.

A report by the Nuffield Foundation found that within five years, half of all private maintenance arrangements set up by single-parent benefit claimants with their former partner had broken down.

Fiona Weir, chief executive of single parent charity Gingerbread, said the findings undermined the government's planned changes to the child maintenance system because it incentivises claimants to set up private arrangements by levying charges against those who use the state-run service.

“At a time when private maintenance agreements are being sold as the best solution for separated parents, this study shows that for a significant group of single parents they are simply not feasible,” said Weir.

The Child Maintenance Service will replace the current Child Support Agency from 2014. Under government proposals, parents who pay child maintenance would be required to pay a £20 application fee as well as 20 per cent on top of each assessed payment.

The parent receiving maintenance would have seven per cent deducted from each assessed payment.
Weir added: “Introducing charges where private agreements haven’t worked risks making some of the most vulnerable parents even poorer – either because they have no choice but to pay to use the new statutory system, or because they give up on child maintenance altogether.”

The researchers surveyed 800 single parents on benefits in 2012 and compared the results to Department for Work and Pensions data from 2007.

Read the rest of the article here.