Half of families will struggle to pay child maintenance fees

Neil Puffett
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Close to half (46 per cent) of single parents currently using the Child Support Agency (CSA) will not be able to afford proposed fees to access the new child maintenance service, a poll by charity Gingerbread has found.

In addition, of families surveyed that said they could not afford the fees, 72 per cent said they could not set up private arrangements with their ex-partners – meaning their children could go without maintenance support.

The findings go against government claims that paying fees to use the child maintenance service or coming to private arrangements are realistic options for the majority of separated parents.

Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: "This shows the devastating impact that charging could have on the amount of child maintenance that will get through to children.

"If these findings were to be replicated across the whole CSA caseload, that could mean nearly 300,000 single parent families would go without child maintenance.

"Ever since these proposals were announced, single parents have been in touch with us in their droves to tell us the hardship they will face if they can no longer get child maintenance. We urge the government to scrap these proposals."

Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said that should government’s child maintenance proposals go ahead, thousands of parents on low incomes could be "stranded between a rock and a hard place", unable to pay fees and unable to make private arrangements.

"With spiralling fuel and other rising costs, there is a real danger that the poorest families will be left making choices for their children such as heating or eating," she said.

Child maintenance changes feature in the Welfare Reform Bill currently going through parliament.

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