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Child Maintenance Reform

Volume 531: debated on Tuesday 12 July 2011

I have today published the Government’s response to “Strengthening families, promoting parental responsibility: the future of child maintenance” (Cm 7990).

We need to challenge and support families to think about their responsibilities for their children when adult relationships break down, to ensure the welfare of their children comes first. It is unacceptable that more than 50% of children living in separated families have no effective child maintenance arrangement in place. I believe we need to move away from a system where the CSA is seen as the only option for the majority, with many people trapped inside an adversarial statutory system because they have been unable to access sufficient support to help them make alternative arrangements.

In our response, we reaffirm our commitment to establishing a better network of support for parents so they can deal with maintenance issues in the broader context of the emotional and practical issues they face at separation, and to make it easier for them to make family-based arrangements which are in the best interests of their children. We will continue working with experts in the voluntary and community sector, as well as with the Department for Education and Ministry of Justice, to translate this vision into reality.

Sir David Henshaw’s 2006 report into child maintenance recommended charging for use of the statutory service as an essential part of changing the behaviour of parents and encouraging them to work collaboratively to take responsibility for the welfare of their children. We remain committed to implementing the previous Government’s legislation which took forward Henshaw’s recommendation and provided for charging. Within this we will continue to work with interested and expert groups to ensure that particularly vulnerable parents are supported appropriately, and we remain committed to delivering an improved statutory scheme that is accessible. We will consult on specific rates in due course, prior to regulations being laid in Parliament.

As part of our commitment to ensuring that the needs of vulnerable people are protected, victims of domestic violence will be fast-tracked to the statutory service with no application fee. Families on out of work benefits will retain 100% of their welfare benefits entitlement and a heavily discounted application fee to what remains a heavily state subsidised statutory maintenance scheme.

Again, we will consult further on specific details in due course.

We are determined to have more children benefiting from effective financial support and more collaborative parenting post separation. I believe that the approach we are setting out today will bring about real change that will make a real difference to children’s lives.

Copies of the consultation response are available in the Vote Office, and will be available shortly at: