Does the UK Child Maintenance Service deliver value for money for children?

Last updated: 05/06/2023

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OPFS research report on single parents’ experiences of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

This report is based on a survey, case studies from our national advice and information service, and from parents using our local community-based services.

Feedback from single parents clearly suggests that the CMS has been lacking in many areas. These areas include the provision of the correct advice, reliable financial support and help when the ex-partner fails to report their true earnings, finds a loophole, or just simply refuses to pay.

OPFS believes that the UK CMS needs a root and branch review. For children of single parents, who are in poverty and not receiving maintenance, payments actually being received would lift them out of poverty in around 60% of all cases. However, the CMS has been beset with extensive problems such as calculations, enforcement and customer service issues. These have intensified since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

A child has a legal right to be supported financially by both their parents, where that is possible, and the government should enable that right to be fulfilled.

Key policy asks for OPFS are:

  • Abolition of CMS charges for parents receiving maintenance, who are unfairly penalised for the child’s other parent’s unwillingness to pay.
  • An improved service for survivors of domestic abuse.
  • Stronger systems and resources to challenging parents who attempt to avoid or minimise child maintenance, and those who do not pay what has been agreed.
  • Better customer service for parents and improved case management by the CMS.

We emphasise that a complete root and branch review is needed to ensure fairness for both parents, because ultimately it is the children who are disadvantaged by a failing system.

Download Read the full report