Fears that child support measures will punish abuse victims

Changes to child maintenance payments will make it harder for single-parents to secure child support.

That was the view expressed by Moray’s MP this week when he commented on the latest proposals by the UK Government to force parents into reaching an ‘amicable agreement’ over child maintenance payments – or face new penalties.

Under the proposals being considered as part of a new service to replace the Child Support Agency the UK government will encourage parents to reach and adhere to their own maintenance agreements.

If they fail to do so the absent parent could face a 20% charge on top of any payment they are ordered to make, while the parent who has care of the child would have any payment they receive reduced by 4%.

In addition an upfront fee of £20 will be required by all single parents to register with the new service.

Opposition over the impact of the proposals has already been raised in the House of Commons with MPs arguing that the proposal take no account of situations where one parent may be willing to reach agreement but the other refuses to do so. Ministers are also being urged to take account of situations where domestic abuse and violence are involved in a family break up.

Angus Robertson MP said: “Child Maintenance issues for parents in Moray feature regularly in my casework, particularly where there are issues of non-payment where the non-resident parent can clearly afford to pay but won’t take the responsibility.

“While most parents who have separated manage to agree child maintenance arrangements, some parents find this impossible. However, children still need support and to take a percentage of the payments that are meant to support children is just wrong.

“These changes will make it harder for parents who take care of the child to secure support from non-resident parents, and may lead to child maintenance agreements which are unstable. The bottom line is that children will lose out on the support they need.

“It is particularly concerning in situations where domestic abuse has occurred, as it would clearly be distressing for somebody to feel forced into dialogue with an abuser.

“Once again we are seeing the UK Government implementing policies that are disproportionately affecting those who need support the most.”

This week around 50,000 letters have been sent out by the Department of Work and Pensions to parents throughout the UK who currently pay and receive payments through the Child Support Agency. In these parents are urged to reach voluntary agreements – but are being warned that if they fail to do so then both parties will be charged under the new system.

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