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12 August 2014

Government launches last phase of new child maintenance system

The last of a series of radical changes to the child maintenance system was implemented on 11th August.

A Government press release says:
"The new system is a break from the failures of the past, which saw children miss out on support despite hugely expensive running costs.
Innovative new features will now also include an online banking-style self-service facility, enabling parents to keep track of payments themselves.
Parents are encouraged and now fully incentivised to co-operate in the best interests of their own children.
But a vastly improved, efficient statutory service remains in place for separated families who choose to continue to rely on the state.
The government’s landmark reform of Britain’s child maintenance system has entered its final chapter. From today, new support and incentives kick in giving families a better chance to take state bureaucracy out of their family arrangements.
Today also sees a major development in government support for separated families with the launch of a new self-service facility which helps separated parents to manage their maintenance arrangements and keep track of payments.
This facility, based on increasingly popular online banking formats, enables users to make and receive safe and secure payments 24 hours a day, as well as update their details, send enquiries, and see records of letters and phone calls at the click of a mouse.
Child Maintenance Minister Steve Webb said:
'For decades, thousands of children – over half of those in the old CSAsystem – did not get the regular financial support they needed, while at the same time costs reached huge levels.
This government has taken radical action to eradicate the failures of the past and replace them with a fair, efficient, streamlined service, fit for the 21st century – a system that supports parents and gets more money to more 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.'
The move is part of reforms which are seeing the Child Support Agency (CSA) wound down over the next 3 years. As it closes its cases, parents are encouraged either to make their own arrangements or take advantage of the government’s Direct Pay system.
Direct Pay allows parents to work together, using the new online self-service account, but intervenes in the event of missed payments or problems. Almost 40% of parents in the new system are already choosing this path. There are no ongoing charges for this service.
The third option will be for families to transfer into a replacement statutory system in which the new Child Maintenance Service will collect and pay maintenance, again with the option of parents tracking progress using the self-service account. But, in order to enable the new statutory service to concentrate on the most challenging of cases and avoid replicating the out of control bureaucracy which characterised the old system, new ongoing collection charges will apply from today to discourage its use when parents could instead work together."
Read the rest of the press release here.