The report highlights a wide range of concerns with the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). The findings reflect the considerable evidence that Gingerbread submitted to the committee from single parents themselves, the majority of who don’t receive any of the child maintenance that their children are entitled to.
In particular, the committee’s report raises two key failings:
The government actively dissuades parents from accessing the CMS through charges: once to enter the service, and a second time if the collection service is needed due to the other parent not paying. While this is defended as an attempt to encourage parents to make their own arrangements, too often it deters parents from using the service despite needing assistance to get the support they are owed.
As the report recognises: “In seeking to encourage separated parents to take more responsibility for their children, the government must not abdicate its own duties to them.”
The CMS is still far too lenient with current child maintenance evasion and avoidance, with a lack of proactive action and reluctance to use legal powers.
The report specifically states that non-payment of child maintenance is “deplorable,” and that while the CMS has been “tentative”, it should instead “strike fear into would-be evaders.”
Rosie Ferguson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, commented on the findings:
“For decades, the children of single parents have been denied the financial support that they need, and today’s findings show that the government still has a long way to go to tackle this social injustice. This report acts as an effective blueprint for the building of a fairer, more effective child maintenance system. We hope that it will receive the serious cross-party support it deserves, and we look forward to the establishment of a stakeholder group to keep up the pressure on behalf of single parents.”