Crown Copyright 2012

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Maria Miller MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary-of-State and Minister for Disabled People

July 2012

Executive summary

  1. This paper launches a consultation on the draft regulations which will underpin charging, not the question of charging itself, which has already been consulted on extensively. This paper also consults on what will happen to existing Child Support Agency (CSA) cases during the
    closure process.

  2. In 2011/12 the Department for Work and Pensions spent almost £6 billion on providing help to 600,000 single parents through income-related benefits including Income Support, Housing Benefit, and Council Tax Benefit. Offsetting the cost of providing benefits to lone parents was a key objective of the original 1993 statutory child maintenance scheme, with maintenance collected being deducted from a parent’s benefit entitlement on a ‘pound for pound’ basis.

  3. Another key objective of the 1993 scheme was to increase the number of children covered by effective maintenance arrangements, not least since provision within the court system was largely confined to divorcing couples.

  4. Benefit recovery ceased to be an objective of the system in April 2010 and underlying support to single parents is now unaffected by any maintenance they receive. This means that the role of the statutory scheme is now solely
    to provide effective maintenance arrangements.

  5. But, in our view, too many parents have come to see the CSA as the default option for arranging maintenance. It is our view that the better way to secure an effective maintenance arrangement, including (but not limited to) financial maintenance, is to support parents to reach their own arrangements wherever possible, with a new, efficient and effective statutory scheme providing a safety net where needed.

  6. It is therefore time to refocus the role of the statutory child maintenance system and set it in the context of the broader Government family policy,
    which is founded on the evidence that children tend to enjoy better life outcomes when their parents are able to provide support and protection throughout their childhood. This is why we are recasting the child maintenance landscape so that it is centred on supporting families
    (see Figure 1).

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