A fairer way to support children?

(54 Posts)
YoureBeingASillyBilly Sun 25-May-14 12:44:40

There has been much talk recently regarding the planned reforms of the CSA and what that will mean for it's service users and most importantly, the children whose interests it was created to look after.

I have been thinking about this topic on and off for a few years and i think there is a fairer way to distibute the financial support needed to raise children that doesnt leave parents at the mercy of each other nor leave children without the support they are entitled to.

I have been asked to start a thread here with a view to laying out my thoughts in a way that allows others to discuss the pros and cons and the possibility of bringing something feasible to the attention of our MPs in the hope that a better system could be implemented in the future.

To start i think it would be extremely easy for the powers that be to calculate a national weekly cost of raising a child. Highly likely that this figure already exists and is recalculated annually.

Using this figure it would then be possible to divide it in two and apportion half to each parent of a child. The figure would be a national minimum that every parent would pay until/unless they were earning above a specified income threshold at which point the individual's contribution would increase according to income.

How does this get to the child? When a child is registered at birth, both parents would automatically be registered in the tax system as liable to pay a 'child tax' that would be desuctable from source, either their working salary/self employed income or their benefits if applicable.

This tax would then be redistributed (with a govt contribution if eligible) in a weekly/four weekly payment in the same way as child benefit is currently paid. I.e; into the account of the person registered to receive CB.

For parents who are in a relationship this may not seem necessary but this system would really come into it's own in the event of a relationship break down when household finances are divided.

For couples who separate this system would mean no need for arranging child maintenance, this would be an extremely important factor in the case of domestic violence or partners who have been financially abusive. No contact eould be required between the two parties as the payment would just continue to be taken from both parent's source of income and paid to the Govt. at a rate decided by the Govt and paid at a rate decised by the Govt.

It removes the opportunity for either party to harrass or abuse the other using the threat of witholding money or that of subjecting them to constant harrassment from the collection agency.

It would also mean that the parent with care could depend on a set amount coming in on a set date with no fluctuations or 'non payment' of support. It would be paid every week/4 weeks without fail and at the same rate.

It would be possible to have a variation in the payment for parents who share care so that 50/50 care would mean each parent received half of the total payment and so on for different arrangements. Both parents would get the payement to reflect the amount of physical care they provide.

There has been much mention of the difficulty in getting a child maintenance award from non resident parents who are self employed and claim to earn very little. This would no longer have an impact on the parent with care and child. They would recieve their weekly/4 weekly payment regardless of whether the NRP paid. The NRP who didnt pay their child tax would be creating a tax debt with the Govt just the same as if they didnt pay tax on their earnings and it would be the Govt who were responsible for reclaiming that debt not the PWC. A non paying parent would have NO IMPACT on the child who would get their child support without fail.

I think one of the most important points here is that this system requires equal contribution from both parents. Both parents have to pay, both parents will receive it in a rate that reflects the physical time they care for their child. If either parent doesnt pay, they owe the Govt and will be pursued by the Govt and not the other parent. Each parent bares no responsibility and has no power over whether the other parent pays, nor how much the other pays. And most importantly, the child gets the support regardless of whether a parent pays or not.

I think i've mentioned all the points i intended to but will post any more that come to me. I'm really interested in hearing any thoughts on this and ideas to tweak it and make it even better an more workable so that we may one day have something that resembles a fair system for supporting children.

niceguy2 Sun 25-May-14 16:14:14

I can see your logic and hypothetically it has some merit. However in the real world it would fall down faster than the current CSA debacle would.

You see people's lives are much more complicated and cannot be simply defined by a "national weekly cost". Such a figure would not be representative to most of the population. For example it would be probably too generous to those who are on low incomes and paltry for the rich. In short one size doesn't fit all.

It would also involve a lot of administration which further increases the cost and chances of mistakes. One of the biggest problems of the original CSA was the complex formula that left some NRP's literally with nothing to live off and took far too long to calculate.

Any child maintenance system has to be quick and suit most people (it will never suit everyone). We really don't want an army of bureaucrats spending months calculating what in many cases would be eaten up in staff costs.

Plus from an electoral point of view anyone suggesting such a 'tax' would I fear by choosing electoral suicide. Chasing errant parents is good politics. Imposing a tax on having children.....good luck with that one.

Finally the problem here isn't the government and the law. It's societal attitudes. We as a society let people get away with non-payment and often we don't say a thing. I've long argued that if we treated persistent non-payers with the same venom as we do with drunk drivers then most would fall into line.

If they are getting grief of friends & family and losing girlfriends because they're not contributing to their old family then I think that's much more effective than yet another law. But all too often we side with the non-payer and brand the ex as a moneygrabber.

The thing I've learned about being a single parent is that there are usually two sides to every story and that the government cannot solve these problems for us with a wave of the legislative wand.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Sun 25-May-14 17:02:34

You see people's lives are much more complicated and cannot be simply defined by a "national weekly cost". Such a figure would not be representative to most of the population. For example it would be probably too generous to those who are on low incomes and paltry for the rich. In short one size doesn't fit all.

It is in practise right now. They work out a NMW, a tax credit threshold, a housing benefit allowance, JSA and IS, DLA. All these figures are based on what 'they' deem sufficient for that particular need.
As for too generous? Who do you know on a low income that would find that a problem? Too paltry? The figure would rise in relation to your income once earning above a specified amount. The rich would have a figure that was a percentage of their income. Also, the fact they would be rich would indicate they have a bit extra to make up for whatever they felt they werent getting.

It would also involve a lot of administration which further increases the cost and chances of mistakes

Every system involves administration and has a risk of mistakes. I would argue that a system that pays a regular set amount on a regular date from one source would be easier to administer than one with millions of different amounts from different sources on different dates. The fact that it would be deducted at source like earnings tax would mean the only people who would need 'chasing' for it would be Self employed NRPs who refused to declare an income.

One of the biggest problems of the original CSA was the complex formula that left some NRP's literally with nothing to live off and took far too long to calculate.

I have never heard of a CSA award of 100% of NRP's income. 40% is the highest i am aware of and that included arrears. The simplicity of this system is that everyone earning below a certain threshold would be the set amount, lets call it £X. Those earning above the threshold would pay £X plus (example) 15% of their income earned above the threshold.

Plus from an electoral point of view anyone suggesting such a 'tax' would I fear by choosing electoral suicide

I totally agree with you on this point. But the tories managed to get in last time despite the entire country knowing what they had planned. I mean the bedroom tax benefits who amongst those that pay it? A children's tax (could be named differently) gets paid directly back to the children.

Finally the problem here isn't the government and the law. It's societal attitudes. We as a society let people get away with non-payment and often we don't say a thing. I've long argued that if we treated persistent non-payers with the same venom as we do with drunk drivers then most would fall into line.

You are right, this is a societal issue. Much like racism, disability discrimination, sexual discrimination, child abuse, domestic violence. Interestingly laws have been created to protect the rights of all those affected by the things i mention. Society must have the support of the law and our government in order for these attitudes to take root. Otherwise those laws would not need to exist, society would have just changed itself surely? A change in attitudes will happen when those with the attitude problem are told by those in power that they are wrong. If the Government tells us that raising children is the responsibility of both parents and implements a policy that supports that then attitudes will start changing. We cant just sit and wait for it to happen because it wont. This needs to be directed.

Lioninthesun Sun 25-May-14 20:46:29

Hello Silly <waves>!
I think another key point to mention is that this, being a govt body, is not going to cost as much as outsourcing to a company such as CSA. Effectively you are simply separating the self employed out to focus on as they are not in the current system (i.e could attempt to cheat govt out of tax as happens already). However with this in place the tax office can see far clearer who is doing this in relation to child maintenance costs. It would mean that the money spent is focused on the trouble makers and should in turn recoup tax that would benefit the system as a whole.

The societal issue is one that I think is very very slowly changing. More and more people need to use the current CSA system and for them it is merely an education in that those who pay and are honest are being shafted by those who don't and aren't.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Sun 25-May-14 21:12:50

Hi lion! Glad you found it. Sorry it took so long in coming. Busy weekend.

Excellent point aswell!

YoureBeingASillyBilly Sun 25-May-14 21:13:30

Hi lion! Glad you found it. Sorry it took so long in coming. Busy weekend.

Excellent point aswell!

YoureBeingASillyBilly Thu 29-May-14 09:39:51

Bumping.

Lioninthesun Thu 29-May-14 20:38:41

Hi Silly still love your idea. Perhaps a petition or something would be better? Politics doesn't look very busy atm, despite EU elections!

Lioninthesun Mon 02-Jun-14 12:55:57

Have you seen this thread Silly? Wondered if they might be interested in your idea? www.mumsnet.com/Talk/media_nonmember_requests/2078744-Do-you-have-a-child-benefit-problem

racmun Mon 02-Jun-14 13:05:28

Silly, it is a good idea but there are huges variances is housing costs across the country so would that be factored in?
Also you say this would be a minimum and if parents earn more then they would have to pay more- your idea won't stop this parents who want to hide their income and just pay a minimum.

Often on threads about CM people moan about their ex only having to pay £5 a week because they're on benefits- how would you deal with non working parents?

Are you also proposing a simultaneous overhaul of the access system? Perhaps the default should be 50/50 care and varied from there, in the same way as you're proposing. Unfortunately some RP use the children to get back at their ex/get more m

racmun Mon 02-Jun-14 13:05:58

Get more money!

morethanpotatoprints Mon 02-Jun-14 13:11:29

I think there should be a price attached to providing for dc, so absent parents couldn't just give up work to avoid paying maintenance for their dc. If it was x amount every month, then parents would have to pay and free the state from having too.
There are too many parents who alleviate themselves of the responsibility of providing for their children when they become absent and often go on to repeat this cycle.
I bet we all know at least one person, usually men who have done this.

BloominNora Mon 02-Jun-14 13:19:48

How would stay at home parents pay their half of raising a child?
What about where there is a significant disparity in salaries between two people in a couple?
How would you make people pay who live off inheritances or lottery wins rather than working?
What about ex-pats who move back to the country or NRP's who emigrate?

*It is in practise right now. They work out a NMW, a tax credit threshold, a housing benefit allowance, JSA and IS, DLA. All these figures are based on what 'they' deem sufficient for that particular need."

Except it is already proven not to work for NMW which is quickly being taken over by the living wage - leading to huge variances across the country and housing benefit which is seeing people having to move hundreds of miles away from friends and family to afford a house.

It is exponentially more expensive to raise a child in the South East than the North - would your calculation take this into account, or would there be regional variances like with the living wage?

I can understand where you are coming from in principal, but in practice people's lives and personal circumstances are far too varied for anything like this to work, plus the bureaucracy and systems needed to manage it would be a nightmare - it would be like some kind of weird Frankensteins monster of the current tax system, CTC and WTC system and the CSA <shudder>

BloominNora Mon 02-Jun-14 13:20:25

How would stay at home parents pay their half of raising a child?
What about where there is a significant disparity in salaries between two people in a couple?
How would you make people pay who live off inheritances or lottery wins rather than working?
What about ex-pats who move back to the country or NRP's who emigrate?

It is in practise right now. They work out a NMW, a tax credit threshold, a housing benefit allowance, JSA and IS, DLA. All these figures are based on what 'they' deem sufficient for that particular need.

Except it is already proven not to work for NMW which is quickly being taken over by the living wage - leading to huge variances across the country and housing benefit which is seeing people having to move hundreds of miles away from friends and family to afford a house.

It is exponentially more expensive to raise a child in the South East than the North - would your calculation take this into account, or would there be regional variances like with the living wage?

I can understand where you are coming from in principal, but in practice people's lives and personal circumstances are far too varied for anything like this to work, plus the bureaucracy and systems needed to manage it would be a nightmare - it would be like some kind of weird Frankensteins monster of the current tax system, CTC and WTC system and the CSA <shudder>

YoureBeingASillyBilly Mon 02-Jun-14 13:50:59

there are huges variances is housing costs across the country so would that be factored in?

It shouldnt be rules out IMO, but i'm also aware that CB, CTC, IS, JSA and minimum wage (outside of london), all figures that are calculated at a national level, dont vary according to location and market rates for the recipient's area. If it was to be varied in relation to housing would that have an effect on parents who recieve housing benefit? Would the amount received be taken off their housing benefit? Lots to be discussed to work out how bet to implement it but not something i could say yes, vary it or no, dont vary it.

your idea won't stop this parents who want to hide their income and just pay a minimum.

I agree, this will still be an issue, however at least with. A national minimum the child wont be getting a zero or £5 a week. The person hiding income wouldnt be hiding it from the other parent, they would be hiding it from the tax man and would be far greater risks and penalties for doing so than just being caught by the CSA. They would be building a tax debt. It would also be very difficult for employed parents to hide any money so would likely be self employed who were doing it which means there would be more than just their child tax they werent paying. They'd be subject to the same investigations that happen currently for thise suspected of hiding SE income.

Often on threads about CM people moan about their ex only having to pay £5 a week because they're on benefits- how would you deal with non working parents?

The amount would come out of their benefit at source, sonif it is for example £20 a week out of £72 JSA then they would have to manage on the £52 that is left, the more children they had the more will come out of it. This might require people in future to think ahead before having children about what they could live on if out of work. If they knew they would have to pay £20 a week for each child no matteer what benefits they got then they might consider very carefully whether they want two or three or four. Currently people can have children knowing they can quit a job and not have to pay anything more than £5 per week. And they can do that over and over again with different partners.

The 50/50 access as a default is always something i have favoured, however i can see and agree with many of the reasons why this shouldnt be a blanket policy. Unlike 50/50 share of financial responsibility, physical contact has the potential to cause instant damage to the child in a far bigger way than lack of money. it has to be safe and healthy for the child to be sharing their time 50/50 with both parents. This just isnt possible with many families for lots of reasons, but 50/50 is a point i think most should start from and work down to an arrangement that fits. It shouldnt be used by either as a way to gain or save money.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Mon 02-Jun-14 14:17:26

How would stay at home parents pay their half of raising a child?

I thought i had mentioned this point here but it was on another thread.

A SAHP would be being supported by their partner and so this person would be their financial sponsor. Nobody exists on air, anyone not working, not in receipt of benefits, without savings and declaring no income would have to advise the system who their financial sponsor was and that person would be resonsible for the SAHP's child tax.

What about where there is a significant disparity in salaries between two people in a couple?

They would each pay the amount calculated according to their salaries.

How would you make people pay who live off inheritances or lottery wins rather than working?

Like the SAHPs they would have to account for how they are surviving and declare that source of funding.

What about ex-pats who move back to the country or NRP's who emigrate

Do you mean ex-pats who dont have any UK income/bank accounts/savings/employment?

What happens currently with ex-pats and NRPs who move abroad? Are their child support responsibilities written off? I am not familiar with this at all. Does the UK currently have no recourse to chase those payments?

Except it is already proven not to work for NMW which is quickly being taken over by the living wage - leading to huge variances across the country and housing benefit which is seeing people having to move hundreds of miles away from friends and family to afford a house.

As i said above, variations isnt something i could say yes or no to. Further investigation required on that one. I agree with you on the NMW not being sufficient. However this shouldnt mean we dont bother with a NMW at all should it? This means we should be demanding a more accurate NMW, one that at least touches the sides on the actual cost of living. Just like we should be demanding fairer child support systems that reflect the actual cost of raising children.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 02-Jun-14 14:57:17

If a 2 parent family were supporting their dc on one wage with a sahp the dc would have what they needed.
However, an absent parent who is able to give up work and not contribute is another thing all together.
Most sahps I know would be prepared to work if the family finances required them to, but this isn't the case for the many absent parents who give up work so as not to pay their share.
A sahp has their oh paying their share of the dc upkeep.

BloominNora Mon 02-Jun-14 15:35:00

And if the SAHP was in an abusive marriage and their partner refused to be their financial sponsor?

What if the person living off inheritance / lottery win refused to declare their funding source - would you want it to be legislation that the government can access your bank accounts and investments to see how much is in them?

morethanpotatoprints Mon 02-Jun-14 15:46:55

The government can access your account if they think you are being fraudulent to one of their agencies.
If the sahp was in an abusive relationship and her partner refused to pay for the upkeep of children, the dc would starve, be taken into care or the sahp would work, what a silly question.
It seems like so many people are happy or accept that its ok for absent parents to be able to relinquish their responsibilities.
If you have made a child you are jointly responsible for that child financially.
In some countries there are set amounts and if they aren't paid welfare is taken away from the parent who stops work.
Is it America or Australia? I read it here somewhere.

Spottybra Mon 02-Jun-14 16:21:14

This is a silly idea IMO. A SAHM is reduced to little more than another dependant in this idea. Are you really that comfortable on charging a child tax x2 on a family unit that is perhaps struggling and already forfeiting holidays and other luxuries to 'gift' it back on a day you consider convient?

A family with two parents already have what they need even if they are struggling. A child with an absent parent needs chasing up and I believe there are laws to deduct maintenance from pay checks and benefits already.

I think the idea behind it is quite good but you need to think it through a little more and make references to how this lies with already expensive childcare costs too. People only have so much money you can take off them.

racmun Mon 02-Jun-14 16:41:08

Silly, what would happen when using your example of somebody getting £72 a week and having to contribute £20 per child if they have 4 children or more?

Does the last child get £12.

The major problem I can see is that all taxes only current accrue whilst working this tax accrues continually- bit sure if it is actually a 'tax'.

Also as on the other thread the major problem is with self employed people hiding their income and structuring their income in the most efficient way. Your proposal won't deal with that issue.

BloominNora Mon 02-Jun-14 16:43:36

morethan not a silly question at all.

This isn't about paying for the upkeep of the children while they are in the relationship, it is about agreeing to pay half of a child rearing tax.

There are plenty of women out there in abusive relationships where they have no or very limited access to money. Their children don't starve because the abusive partner buys food and pays bills, but what would guarantee they would be their partners financial sponsor?

It would potentially also increase SAHP vulnerability. What's to stop an abusive partner refusing to give the sahp anymore than the government dictated child rearing amount for 'housekeeping'. For some people it may legitimise their financial abuse of their partner.

BloominNora Mon 02-Jun-14 16:49:13

Also a lot of people don't have anything to do with government agencies that would give them the right to look at bank accounts - no tax credits, no self assessment, no benefits.

for this idea to work the government would have to introduce legislation to give the access to bank accounts of anyone who has a child.

Gripes about benefit claimants and malicious reports of benefit fraud are bad enough as it is. I can just see all the gripes now about how so and so has to pay less 'breeding tax' than me, but can still afford a 300inch tv and 12 holidays abroad every year.

OddBoots Mon 02-Jun-14 16:54:46

This is not an easy situation at all, it's one I've tried to think through a few times and found it too tough to sort something that would work in any situation. I've often mused some kind of loan (like a student type of loan) to allow those out of work to better fund their non-resident children but it would probably be too costly and complex.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 02-Jun-14 19:21:26

BloominNora

But wouldn't a financial abusive partner be doing this anyway irrespective of any change of law.
Some men only give their partners the bare minimum anyway, I can't see as there would be any difference.

As for those living off inheritance etc, there should be no difference between this and earned money if you have made a child.

I keep saying this but absent parents should not be lawfully allowed to flout their financial responsibility towards their child/ren.
This is why so many go on to have more dc in a new relationship before moving on to the next. I know of dozens of men who have done this, they have no conscience when it comes to the call of the minge.

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