Single and separated parents who have previously received no maintenance from their former partner could start receiving payments for the first time, as reform of the child maintenance system starts to affect existing cases.
As many as 50,000 children may be newly eligible for maintenance, the government has estimated, as a 3 year process of closing all existing Child Support Agency cases gets under way. A new advertising campaign to raise awareness was launched in September.
Under sweeping reforms of the system the CSA has already stopped taking on new cases, with newly separated parents encouraged to make their own family based arrangements or use the new Child Maintenance Service instead.
Now in the next phase of the changes, the agency is beginning the process of closing its 800,000 strong historic caseload.
Initially the DWP is writing to 150,000 parents with details of when their case is due to close and advice about the next steps they should take. Although there is no need for anyone to act until they receive a letter, once parents receive notification of their closure date they are urged to consider their options. The case closure programme is beginning with so-called “nil-assessed” cases – those in which, because of the circumstances of the non-resident statement parent, no maintenance has been due. Because of this, parents may feel there is little point in responding to the letter they receive.
But because the parent’s circumstances may have changed since the initial assessment was made – plus the new statutory child maintenance is much more robust, using data from the tax authorities – it may be that maintenance becomes payable once a new assessment is carried out. Therefore all parents are encouraged to act.
Parents whose CSA cases are closed are encouraged instead to make their own family-based arrangements – with £14 million ploughed into projects around the country that help parents work together in the interests of their children. If that’s not possible, they can take advantage of support available from the new Child Maintenance Service.
Whichever route they choose, advice and support is available inline or on the phone from the new Child Maintenance Options Service – 080 098 809 880 or www.cmoptions.org.uk.
Whichever route they choose, advice and support is available inline or on the phone from the new Child Maintenance Options Service – 080098809880 or www.cmoptions.org.uk.