More than 800,000 child maintenance cases will be closed down in the next three years as the Child Support Agency (CSA) transfers its case load to other organisations.
The CSA has now begun the process of closing its historic caseload and has stopped taking on new cases, instead referring newly-separated parents to the new Child Maintenance Service or encouraging them to come up with their own arrangements.
As part of this process the Department for Work and Pensions will be writing to around 150,000 parents with details of when their case will close and advice about the next steps they should take.
The case closure programme will begin with “nil-assessed” cases, where because of the circumstances of the non-resident parent, no maintenance has been due.
Because of this, some parents may feel there is little or no point in responding to the letter they receive as they have never or no longer receive any payment.
But the DWP is encouraging them to get in contact as they may be owed maintenance from a previous partner.
This is thanks to the introduction of the more robust Child Maintenance Service, which is able to detect a change in a partners circumstances based upon the latest tax data for that individual – meaning that for many people maintenance may become payable once a new assessment is carried out.
Child Maintenance Minister, Steve Webb MP, said: “We’re reforming the child maintenance system because we want to get more maintenance to more children.
“This process provides parents with an opportunity to re-consider their child maintenance arrangements and our estimates show that as many as 50,000 children could benefit.”
Family law practitioner, Diane Genders, has already worked with clients who have been negatively affected by the reforms.
“These changes mean that some parents, in particular fathers, could now be contacted and told they owe thousands of pounds for children now grown up,” said Mrs Genders.
“I would encourage anyone with concerns to get in contact with our team of family law specialists.”