A further round of changes will take place after the Child Maintenance Service has been shown to be working well:
It is intended that in future there will be a fee for applying to the Child Maintenance Service. There will be exemptions to this application fee for victims of domestic violence and applicants aged 18 or under. The proposed level of the application fee is £20.
There will also be a collection fee if parents use the Child Maintenance Service to collect and pass on payments (a Collect & Pay arrangement). Collection fees will be payable by both parents, including those people who have become clients of the Child Maintenance Service before charging has been introduced. The proposed collection fee will be 4% of child maintenance for the receiving parent and for paying parents it is 20% calculated as on top of the child maintenance calculation.
Paying parents will also have to pay enforcement charges if the Child Maintenance Service has to take enforcement action against them.
The introduction of charging is subject to the final approval of Parliament.
The Government intends that the fees will encourage parents to think about whether they can make a family-based arrangement rather than just default into the Child Maintenance Service or, if they are unable to do that, to consider a Direct Pay arrangement within the Child Maintenance Service.
You might want to alert any parents who ask you about child maintenance of the proposed forthcoming introduction of charges. Remember that there will always be the zero-cost option of making a family-based arrangement. Parents can also avoid collection fees by using Direct Pay within the Child Maintenance Service.
Changes to Direct Pay
At present, both parents have to agree to a Direct Pay arrangement (called Maintenance Direct within the Child Support Agency). In future, either parent with a Child Maintenance Service arrangement will be able to request Direct Pay. Parents will be able to avoid collection fees by opting for Direct Pay in the future, but will still have to pay the application fee. If payments are not made, the case can be moved to the Collect & Pay service.
The Government has also worked with banks and building societies so that people can get an account that allows them to receive money from the paying parent securely and without having to disclose personal details (e.g. contact numbers or bank account details). This option will often be appropriate for cases where the receiving parent has been a victim of domestic violence.
After the Child Maintenance Service has been shown to be working well, the process of closing existing Child Support Agency cases will begin. Parents will then have the opportunity of deciding whether to make a family-based arrangement or apply to the Child Maintenance Service. Support will be provided by Child Maintenance Options to help them do this.
Parents will be given six months notice that their case is to close.
This process of case closure will take around three years and affect around two million parents. In the meantime, it’s important parents keep paying their regular child maintenance payments.
Final go-ahead for cases to close is subject to the approval of Parliament.