Today the Government will open the 2012 statutory child maintenance scheme, delivered by the Child Maintenance Service, to all new applicants. We will no longer be accepting new applications to the 2003 scheme, delivered by the Child Support Agency.
The flat rate of child maintenance will also increase from £5 to £7 for 2012 scheme cases only. This change will increase the amount of money flowing to children and restore approximately the value of the flat rate in real terms, compared with what it was when introduced in 2003.
Those wishing to make an application to the 2012 scheme will first need to go through a gateway conversation, delivered by the Child Maintenance Options service. This will ensure that applicants consider their alternatives before turning to the statutory scheme. This will be a tailored conversation appropriate to individual circumstances. For example, those who have been victims of domestic violence will be fast-tracked through the gateway.
The Government aim to ensure that parents who are able to make their own family-based arrangements are supported and encouraged to do so, while an efficient and effective statutory service is still available as a backstop for those who really need it.
Today’s changes to the statutory service represent a key milestone in our progress to reform child maintenance. But we are also aiming wider: our starting point is that children tend to do better when they have a positive relationship with both parents and we want to make working together the norm across all parenting issues, not just child maintenance. We are supporting separated parents to do this through the Help and Support for Separated Families (HSSF) initiative. As part of this, we have launched the Sorting out Separation web app; an HSSF mark; the HSSF Telephony Network; and an Innovation Fund to test and evaluate new interventions to help separated parents work together.