We have seen some recently released information that has shed some light on who makes policy decisions within the DWP relating to Child Support Maintenance.
What does a policy decision look like?
An example of DWP Policy would be the decision to use HMRC Company Car rates for Child Maintenance Special Expense variations (as opposed to Personal Car Fuel rates). We cover the impact of this decision in our article on Internal Relocation.
Policy decisions with respect to the Child Maintenance Service are important as they provide a critical link between the intention of the legislation and its practical implementation. As we will examine in other articles, the Policies and Procedures of the CMS sometimes stray into areas that are legally and ethically questionable.
We will be looking in a lot more depth at the policies and procedures of the CMS in future articles so please do sign up to our mailing list if you want to be kept informed of future pieces.
However, to set the scene for the significance of the Policies and Procedures it should be noted that data we have seen from the CMS showed that between 1st April 2014 and 30 April 2017, failure to follow procedure accounted for a significant amount of the disciplinary action that the CMS took against their own staff. They made up:
40.78% of First Written Warning Notices
29.69% of Final Written Warnings
Child Maintenance Service Group employees clearly have a problem following the procedures within the Child Maintenance Service.
We don’t know the source of the identification of the procedural breach and we will be looking at this in future. However, it is probably not an unfair assumption that there are many more instances of CMS staff not following procedure; they just have not been caught out….yet.
Getting back to the previously mentioned request for information…
The DWP was asked:
Please provide the following information with respect to the Family and
Child Maintenance Policy Department within the Department of
Work and Pensions.
– Please provide an organisational chart for this department
– Please provide a copy of this Department’s Mission statement or document
outlining its roles and responsibilities
– Please provide a list of documents produced by this department that have
been circulated to an MP. Please provide a title and date or publication for
In relation to the Policy department the DWP said the following:
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for welfare,
pensions and child maintenance policy.
Strategy, Policy and Analysis Group (SPAG) provides the policy making
function of the DWP.
The remit of SPAG includes looking ahead – identifying where the Government’s welfare and pension reforms and social justice agenda should take the Department, looking beyond the individual reforms already underway – and for giving Ministers a joined-up view of their portfolios.
SPAG contains the Children, Families and Disadvantage Directorate which includes the teams responsible for child maintenance policy, maternity policy and family policy.
With respect to the priorities of SPAG, the DWP said
One of the DWP’s key priorities is to create a fair and affordable welfare
system which improves the life chances of children.
The DWP goes on to say
The DWP’s single departmental plan outlines how the Children, Families and Disadvantage
Directorate plan do this by:
Developing a Life Chances Strategy, which will set out a
comprehensive plan to fight disadvantage and extend opportunity so
that every child can reach their full potential.
Introducing new life chances measures on worklessness and
educational attainment, along with other measures of the root causes of poverty including family stability, drug and alcohol dependency and
Encouraging family stability, by improving the availability of support for
couples, developing a significantly expanded parenting programme,
and implementing reforms to the Child Maintenance Service to
encourage family based arrangements where appropriate.
The DWP also provided organisational charts for the Child Maintenance and Maternity Payments Policy Team
They also provided an Organisational Chart for the Family Policy Team
Although the Child Maintenance and Maternity Payments Policy Team does not provide names of individuals, we have learned that (at the time of writing) the person responsible for Child Maintenance Policy is a lady called Julia Gault. She is the “Deputy Director Family and Child Maintenance Policy Department for Work and Pensions”
You can see more of her career history on her LinkedIn page: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/julia-gault-969a3769
Given the potential of the Child Maintenance Service to introduce friction into children’s lives where their parents are exposed to poor policy decisions, we are going to take a keen interest in Ms. Gault and the output of her team.
We will also be looking further at the “Developing Life Chances” strategy as well as the reforms to “encourage family based arrangements where appropriate”.
Have you been a victim of the CMS not following their own Policies and Procedures? We want to hear your story.
Have you been told “it’s our policy” when the CMS communicates a decision which would harm your child’s wellbeing?
We want to hear from you.
Please also sign up to our mailing list for future updates, research and opinion pieces from Voice of the Child.
In a Family Law system designed for combative parents there is no real allowance for the views of children and any understanding of how Family Law ultimately impacts on children most of all.
We speak for the children in Family Law so that, finally, the children have a voice.