What is in the news?
The Department of Work and Pensions have recently released information about how the child maintenance system is working. Between February and April 2018, Child Maintenance Options helped parents set up 33,400 child maintenance arrangements. Of these 8,300 were family-based arrangements. 85% of parents with a family-based arrangement said it worked fairly or very well.
Out of the 48,700 parents that had contact with Child Maintenance Options between February and April 2018, the Department for Work and Pensions estimates that 78% had a child maintenance arrangement by June 2018. This is 38,100 agreements, whether through the Child Maintenance Service, the court or a family based arrangement.
Almost a quarter (24%) of parents who contacted Child Maintenance Options between February and April 2018 had a family-based arrangement. 17% set up or changed their family-based arrangement after contacting Options, while 7% already had a family-based arrangement in place or could not remember if they set up or changed their arrangement after speaking to Options.
Why is this important?
The aim with putting an online calculator on the government website was to encourage families to take control of their own arrangements and make agreements themselves, without having the Child Maintenance Service making decisions for them. Of course, a side benefit is that there would be less call on the Child Maintenance Service to get involved and that means less cost/expense of administering the system.
Looking at the figures though, there were still a significant number of families who needed help from the Child Maintenance Service.
The rules and regulations for the calculation of child maintenance are complex where an initial assessment is not accepted. For those involved in the process, the procedure can seem overwhelming. I have comments that the number of letters and documents coming from the Child Maintenance Service can be overwhelming and confusing. There are unusual terms used also.
If you find that you need some help and guidance when dealing with maintenance assessments, I can help. Get in touch!
In the meantime, here are some of the phrases you might come across:
Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) : they are responsible for the government child maintenance scheme
Child Maintenance Service (CMS): all staffed by the DWP and they work in the child maintenance scheme
Child Support Agency (CSA): they used to do what the CMS now does. They are finishing off dealing with the ‘old scheme’ cases.
Child Maintenance Options: sort of a subdivision of the CMS and the first place to contact.
Person with care: the person that the child has their home with and who gives the day to day care to the child
Non-resident parent: a parent who is not living in the same household as their child. It can cover both parents, if, say, a child is living with a grandparent. (CMS call them paying parent).
Child: a person under 16 years of age or a young person aged 16-19 and for whom child benefit is being paid or they are receiving full time ‘non advanced’ education. This could be A Levels, NVQ Level 3 or below. It has got to be 12 hours of weekly contact time a week. They still ‘qualify’ for the scheme if there is a temporary break in education. A break of up to 6 months is allowed but the CMS can allow longer if the break is due to an illness or disability of the young person.
Application fees: There is a fee of £20 for making an application to the CMS.
Variation: This is a decision to allow for situations or income that is not taken into account by the usual calculation made by the CMS to be considered. A person with care or a paying parent can apply in writing for a variation. These are the areas that cause the most dispute.
Revision: means that the decision which is wrong or which has been challenged is itself changed. The revised decision usually takes effect from the date the original decision had effect
Supersession: means that the original decision is replaced by a new decision, which takes effect from a later date.