OPFS response: MPs call for reform of CMS to help tackle child poverty
MPs from the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee have today published a report on the Child Maintenance Service and child poverty, calling for a number of changes to the system.
- Caitlin Logan, OPFS Policy, Research and Influencing Lead
You can read the committee’s report here.
One Parent Families Scotland’s Policy, Research and Influencing Lead Caitlin Logan said:
“Today’s report is the latest in a series which makes valuable recommendations and outlines some serious systemic issues within Child Maintenance Service, such as the speed of the service, ineffective enforcement, and risks posed to victims of domestic abuse. What we – and the single parents we support – need to see now is action from the government to implement some of these recommendations.
“In particular, we agree with the committee’s view that parents on low incomes or where domestic abuse has been involved should not have to pay Collect and Pay fees – in fact, we have called for a number of years now for the fees to be scrapped for receiving parents altogether.
“Given that children in single parent families are considerably more likely to be living in poverty – 38% in Scotland – and that single parent families have been among the worst affected by the cost-of-living crisis, it’s indefensible for the government to be deducting a fee from the financial support being paid to children by their other parent.
“We also agree that it should be made much easier for parents to move onto Collect and Pay – the system where the government collects the payment – when private arrangements between parents arrangements aren’t likely to work, and would certainly see a move to trigger this when arrears reach half of the current average as a positive step.
“The report recommends that child maintenance be deducted from Universal Credit before any debts to the government. We know that debt deductions are leaving many low-income families in a dire situation, and as such we’ve joined anti-poverty partners in calling for a moratorium on public debt during the cost-of-living crisis, and to cap state debt deductions from Universal Credit at 5% more generally.
“We agree that financial support for children in the form of maintenance payments should be prioritised over debts to the government, and that this is the only viable approach if the government is serious about addressing child poverty.
“We would also echo the committee’s call for the government to set out how it plans to reach and support families without a child maintenance arrangement, and to investigate the reasons for this. At present, the system is focused on minimising state intervention, rather than prioritising, or even seeking to understand, the needs of families and children.
“We also feel it is important to note that, although our evidence to the committee highlighted that this is a highly gendered issue given that nine in 10 single parent are women, and as such most paying parents are men, and that child poverty is inextricably linked to women’s poverty, there is very minimal reference to gender within the report. In order to properly reflect and respond to the context for families around the Child Maintenance Service, we would encourage the government to take forward a gendered and intersectional analysis of the issues.”
In a recent briefing paper about child maintenance and domestic abuse, we explain the need for a number of changes to the system to support families affected by domestic abuse, including better recording and analysis of data, specialised training, and the removal of the Collect and Pay fees.
And in a consultation response to the UK Government on introducing curfew orders for parents refusing to pay child maintenance, we outline several concerns with this and explain the approaches we believe would be more effective.