Is £20 fee the reason for dramatic drop in applications for child maintenance help?

Thousands of parents are turning their backs on the government’s new Child Maintenance Service (CMS)

We expressed our concern back in July when the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) spoke out against the replacement for the Child Support Agency (CSA) after it was revealed that parents would have to pay a £20 fee to access their help (and lose a percentage of any maintenance collected by the CMS, both on collection and payment out).

Now latest government statistics reveal that 3,700 fewer parents applied to the CMS in August compared to May this year under the former system– a drop of 38%. Worryingly, this is three times the 12% drop in applications predicted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

Single parent charity, Gingerbread, is now calling for the government to withdraw the charge as it fears that the three million children in single parent homes will plunge further into a spiral of poverty.

Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir said: “At the moment, only two-fifths of the UK’s two million single parent families receive child maintenance payments from their child’s other parent. We warned the government that the charge to access the new service could make this situation even worse. These early figures seem to confirm our fears.”

The question that needs to be asked is, are parents now making their own arrangements, or are they simply put off from paying the £20 fee?

It’s probably a bit of both. The DWP has not yet published the data it is collecting on how many parents call the CMS, but then do not apply for help.

With the withdrawal of legal aid for most family law cases, some parents will see the £20 fee as an additional charge they can ill-afford. It may not sound a great deal, but in the scheme of things it all adds up.

Did the £20 put you off from contacting the CMS? Is there a better solution to securing payments from your ex?

If you have any other questions about child maintenance that you would like answering, we’d like to hear from you so please call us on 0113 246 0055, leave us a comment below or drop us an e-mail.

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