We have written before about the Department of Work and Pensions select Committee inquiry into the Child Maintenance Service that was held in 2016.
The Government recently provided their response which we we pleased to see did not contain provisions fora knee jerk reaction as advanced by the Committee.
Following the Government response, Heidi Allen, an MP who sat on the Committee in 2016 and continues to sit on the Work and Pensions Select Committee wrote a letter to Caroline Dinenage (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance), the Minister Responsible for the Child Maintenance Service where she said the following:
We are also particularly disappointed the Government made no commitment to reconsider its position on assets and lifestyles incompatible with declared incomes, or honour court-ordered higher maintenance payments where the parent with care has requested a variation to payments on those grounds.
Let us be clear, an inquiry was held and a report was produced. The Government considered their response and published a comprehensive reply to the recommendations. Ms Allen however remains on her (ill advised) crusade to recreate the now defunct Child Support Agency (which was plagued by issues and complaints due to the subjectivity of the measures that Ms Allen is now attempting to reintroduce).
She has scheduled a “Ten Minute” Private Members Bill on the 28th November called “Child Maintenance (Assessment of Parents’ Income)“.
This was also the title of a ten minute Bill put forward by David Burrowes (the previous MP for Enfield, Southgate who lost his seat at the last election). You can read the Hansard report here.
Why is she doing this? Looking at Ms Allen’s twitter account, we can see that she apparently held a meeting with (at least) one of the 3 “supermums” (Melissa Santiago-Val) that met with her prior to the commencement of the 2016 inquiry.
Melissa Mariasv tweeted:
Brilliant to meet
@heidiallen75 today – keeping up pressure to change Child Maintenance Service, and lots of exciting directions discussed!
Ms Allen responded with:
Feeling really optimistic that we will effect change!
We are not at all convinced that this is a sensible thing to do. In fact, it would be a unmitigated disaster. Remember what the DWP themselves said about the lifestyle variation in the Government response to the inquiry:
We have no plans to reintroduce this provision, which was difficult for parents to use and uncertain in effect. The onus to prove that grounds for a variation existed lay with the applicant, typically the parent with care, and it was often difficult to obtain such details.
As a result, very few applications for ‘lifestyle’ variations resulted in changes to the existing liability. The decisions on these grounds also involved a degree of subjectivity and a large proportion of such decisions were challenged or appealed, delaying the receipt of a steady maintenance amount.
At the Voice of the Child, we are very concerned about Ms Allen, her belligerence and continued pushing for changes that will cause further upset and hardship (in the form of costly challenges and delay) to children as well as paying and receiving parents alike. Tinkering around the edges will not solve the issues with the UK Child Maintenance Service or indeed with the often difficult dynamics of post separation relationships.
Make no mistake, we understand the issues with the Child Maintenance Service but Ms Allen is seriously misguided if she believes that this is a solution that will solve more problems than it creates. Issues exist for paying and receiving parents alike.
What is needed is a complete overhaul starting with the Legislation itself. Measured and proper consideration needs to be given as to whether, after 26 years, the Child Support Act 1991 is fit for purpose in modern British society.
Many of the issues that the “clients” of the Child Maintenance Service have can be traced back to the archaic Legislation, which was ill conceived, poorly debated and continues to be implemented with astonishing incompetence. All of this has contributed to the myriad of issues we are hearing about daily from receiving and paying parents.
A Call for Action
If, like us, you would like to see a wholesale proper reform process to the Child Maintenance legislation then you need to write to your MP and ask them not to support Ms Allen’s November 28th Bill.
Join us in Campaigning for total Legislative reform to create a system that works effectively for Children and both of their parents.
You can find your MP here.
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.