The new child maintenance system came into practice on 30th June. It is to encourage families to sort out their own child maintenance plans, rather than use the government system. There is still support there for parents who are unable to come to suitable arrangements without 3rd party assistance, but it comes at a cost.
This is the start of the phased closure of the Child Support Agency over the next 3 years. The CSA has come under criticism for ineffectiveness and huge costs. Over the next few years the Child Maintenance Service will be taking over for the parents that want government assistance in receiving child maintenance payments.
There is a one-off application fee of £20 to use the Child Maintenance Service. After that, there will be on-going charges for parents who use the government service to pass the money from one parent to another. There are no charges if the payments go directly from parent to parent.
The charges that are incurred when the state collects the money on behalf of the parents are there to encourage parents to cooperate with each other, leaving the Child Maintenance Service to sort out the more difficult cases.
The new scheme has come under a heavy fire of criticism from many different parties. The charity, Gingerbread, that supports single-parent families has been particularly outspoken. They have questioned whether single parents who are already under financial pressures will be able to afford the £20 fee, discouraging the most vulnerable from taking the steps necessary to relieve some of their financial burdens. This, in turn, will greatly affect the welfare of the children involved. The government has argued that the CSA is a broken system that can not support those that need it the most.