Posts Tagged ‘child maintenance’

Welfare reform and the affect in Norwich

Dozens of charities and organisations came together for a seminar in Norwich City Council over the weekend to discuss the potential impact of the Welfare Reform Bill.

Top on the agenda was the fear that thousands of people in Norwich would end up worse off because of proposed changes to housing benefit, disability allowances, council tax benefit and child maintenance. In particular, there was alarm that under proposals of bringing all benefits together under the Universal Credit, benefits would be capped and housing benefit cut for people who had “spare” rooms.

Labour Peer Baroness Hollis recognised that they now needed to go on the offensive. Baronness Hollis recognised that the principles of the Universal Credit was good but the problem was that it was part of a turf war between the Department forWork and Pensions and Department for Communities and Local Government. The impact would be severest on the poorest people in the community.

Shelter also had serious misgivings;

Lesley Burdett, Shelter’s service manager in Norwich, said: “These welfare reforms are a big concern for Shelter. We see it is undermining housing need for lots of individuals, particularly in Norwich.

Particular concerns included plans to cut housing benefit to people in social housing who live in homes which are “too big” for them.

An estimated 2,820 council tenants in Norwich could be affected by these proposals. Tenants with one spare room who decide not to move are set to lose up to 15 per cent of their housing benefit and those with two or more could lose 25per cent from April 2013.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, was one of 18 Church of England Bishops who signed an open letter calling for the government to think again over the shake-up, which includes a planned £500-a-week benefits cap for families.

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Putting families at the heart of government

DWP consultation to bring back child maintenance

The Government is inviting views on plans to bring the child maintenance system back into the heart of government, in order to improve accountability and assist in the process of reform.

It is proposing to transfer the functions of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) into the Department for Work and Pensions, under direct Ministerial control.

Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller said:

“The Government is clear about how important strong family relationships are for children. If separation is unavoidable then we want to do much more for parents at the time of the split to put their children’s interests first.

“We can do this by bringing together the expertise of a range of public and voluntary sector services and our proposals to bring the child maintenance system back under direct control of Ministers will help in that process.”

The current Child Support Agency schemes are set to close to new users from next year. This will see the end of a failing system, long overdue for reform, replaced by a single new, streamlined child maintenance service. This will be the biggest overhaul of the system since it was first set up in 1993.

The abolition of CMEC as a non-departmental body will also help with the Government’s drive to reduce the number of public bodies across government.
The DWP are consulting on this structural change from this week.  The Government’s wider child maintenance reforms are designed to ensure more separated parents have effective financial support in place for their children for the first time.  Parents will be supported and helped to make their own, family-based child maintenance arrangements, which, research shows, more than half of parents who currently use the statutory system would prefer.


Click here for the consultation document

Website: DWP


Amanda Frewin

Research & Project Support

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Government announces response to consultation on future changes to child maintenance

On Monday, 11th July the Government published its response to the consultation on the future of child maintenance. Under the new system:

  • The Government wants to support parents to make their own family-based arrangements which are in the best interests of their children
  • Parents will be able to obtain initial information and support on the range of options available to them through a ‘gateway service’
  • Parents can then decide whether to make their own, family-based arrangements, using the help they have received, or to use the new, much improved, child maintenance service, for which there will be a charge – although it will still be heavily subsidised
  • Parents on the lowest incomes will have a heavily discounted upfront charge to join the service
  • Cases involving domestic violence will be fast-tracked directly onto the statutory service and no payment will be required to enter the system. THIS IS GOOD,
  • Parents who fail to pay their maintenance will be pursued with the full range of enforcement tools available, and will face additional penalty charges to help meet the cost paid by the taxpayer of having to fund any enforcement action against them EXCELLENT

Government figures showed that the current child maintenance system is deeply flawed as, “the CSA currently spends over 40 pence for every pound transferred from the non resident parent to the resident parent – this does not represent value for money to the taxpayer.”

These proposals appear to have been welcomed by groups who wanted the present system totally overhauled. Nick Woodall, Director of Policy and Development at of the Centre for Separated Families, announced in a press release:

“’The Government says that fundamental to its approach is the recognition that families need around separation extend beyond issues of financial support such as child maintenance. We believe that this change is long overdue. For too long, family separation has been dealt with as a purely financial issue”. THIS IS SO TRUE

However, in a an early response to the government plans, the UK’s leading children’s charity Barnardo’s demanded that the coalition abandon any proposals to charge collection fees on families receiving benefits or on low incomes. Anne Marie Carrie, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s said:

“Barnardo’s believes that proposed charges to be levied on parents claiming child maintenance are both unreasonable and unfair. Our services work with families who live on just £13 per person per day. Parents in this situation cannot afford to pay these kind of fees that will inevitably cause undue hardship during a time of difficult family breakdown.

“The Government must make take its mandate to better support families living below the breadline. If the welfare of our children is to be paramount, a system must be created that truly meets the needs of those living in poverty.”


There is an argument to say that parents on low incomes or in receipt of benefits should be treated with the same consideration as those who have suffered domestic violence. There are also concerns that a family in the process of separating and dealing with the adverse effects of the welfare reforms could lead to the family finding it impossible to resolve the situation or successfully part.

David Healey
Project Support

Websites: DWP, Separated Families, Barnardo’s






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