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Child Maintenance Services

Volume 732: debated on Tuesday 2 May 2023

The petition of Craig Bulman,

Declares that the petitioner is concerned regarding the number of suicides that have been linked with the activities of the CPA and the CMS, notes that incorrect assessments and inflation of arrears may have played a factor in the mental health of those who committed suicide.

The petitioner therefore requests that the House of Commons urge the Government to open an independent investigation into the Child Maintenance Service and their assessment procedures.

And the petitioners remain etc. —[Official Report, 1 March 2023; Vol. 728, c. 5P.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies):

The Department strongly denies any suggestion of a causal link between the Child Maintenance Service and suicide. Suicide is a very complex and emotive issue and over-simplifying the causes and circumstances surrounding it is dangerous and misleading.

The Department recognises that socio-economic factors such as deprivation, unmanageable debt, poor housing, and unemployment may increase suicide risk. We also recognise that, tragically, some people experiencing an emotional crisis, such as a family break-up, may be more prone to suicidal ideation, but we refute the idea that this is attributable to the CMS in any way.

The maintenance calculation is designed to be affordable for paying parents, while ensuring they contribute a significant proportion of their income to support their children.

All calculation decisions made by the CMS can be appealed through the mandatory reconsideration process and beyond that, to the independent Tribunal Service. Where arrears do accrue, paying parents are notified immediately and the CMS will work with them to get payments back on track and discuss how to clear the arrears. Paying parents can ask to negotiate their arrears payments at any time which is made clear in the letters they are sent, and in conversations with the CMS.

The CMS has robust processes in place so that its caseworkers know how to respond if customers express an intention to harm themselves. Caseworkers use a complex needs toolkit with clear steps to support vulnerable clients including those at risk of suicide or self-harm as well as those who are facing domestic abuse. It is the CMS’s priority to handle these cases in a sensitive manner and ensure that vulnerable customers get the help and support they need to use the CMS safely.

In the rare instances where the Department is informed of a suicide, the case is moved to a specialist team to investigate. Any suggestion or allegation that the Department’s actions may have negatively contributed to a customer’s circumstances are fully investigated and the Department will conduct—or participate in—any inquest, internal process review or adult safeguarding board as necessary.

The Department would encourage anyone going through a difficult or traumatic time to seek help via their GP and/or access support such as that which is offered by the Samaritans and/or the mental health charity MIND. The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They can be called on freephone 116 123, emailed at, or to find the nearest branch, visit