Child maintenance fees lead to fewer people seeking help

A charity has claimed that a new application fee for parents to access the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has led to a drop in people using the service.

Gingerbread, a single parent charity, claims that the introduction of the £20 charge to use CMS has led the number of applications to fall by 2,900. This would equate to a drop of 30 per cent; more than twice as much as the Government’s estimate of 12 per cent that was predicted ahead of charging.

Introduced in June, the application fee was followed in August with the ‘Collect and Pay’ scheme, which charges an additional 20 per cent to parents paying child maintenance and deducts four per cent from those who receive it.

The charge was introduced to encourage parents to sort out their own child maintenance arrangements after the change over from the old managed system of the Child Support Agency to the CMS.

However, many groups have claimed that both of these charges act as a deterrent to parents hoping to make their child maintenance payments with the Government’s help.

Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir said: “At the moment, less than half of the UK’s two million single parent families receive child maintenance payments from their child’s other parent.

“Children in single parent families are already twice as likely to live in poverty as those in couple families.

“The government should not be putting barriers in the way of the three million children growing up in single parent families getting the support they need and we urge the DWP to drop the charge.”

The charity is now calling on the Department of Work and Pensions to publish quarterly data showing how many parents decide to make their own child maintenance arrangements after calling the government Child Maintenance Options helpline, rather than applying to the CMS.