MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Wed 05-Jul-17 12:46:33

"Loopholes in the child maintenance system mean children are going without"

Changes to child maintenance system have been designed for administrative ease - and aren't in the best interests of children, says Gingerbread's Emma Yorke

Emma Yorke

Campaigns Officer at Gingerbread

Posted on: Wed 05-Jul-17 12:46:33


Lead photo

"Money isn't everything, but children don't come free."

Time and time again, Gingerbread hears from single parents who are fighting a failing system - the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) - to secure accurate maintenance payments for their child. Child maintenance can help to give a child a decent quality of life by providing vital assistance for everyday expenses – such food, clothing, travel, and school costs. Money isn't everything, but children don't come free.

Our Maintenance Matters campaign has recently exposed some of the loopholes in the CMS that allow paying parents to avoid paying maintenance based on their true income. One common issue is that paying parents with often considerable assets can end up paying a bare minimum, since several sources of income aren't taken into consideration by the CMS. In other cases, self-employed parents are able to get away with under-reporting their income in order to reduce their payments. Our latest report 'Children deserve more' highlights the struggles many single parents face in their fight to get true financial resources taken into account for child maintenance.

Although the CMS is trying to work with HMRC to understand paying parents' taxable data, the reality is that this isn't happening for some families. Parents who have questioned their calculations with the CMS are told to contact HMRC. But often little support or resource is given to find a solution.

It's clear that some of the changes to child maintenance system have been designed for administrative ease, rather than to work in the best interests of children. For example, safeguards that were in place against maintenance avoidance and evasion have been dropped. Although receiving parents can query payments by applying for a 'variation' on specific grounds, they still have to prove their ex has hidden financial resources. As a result, parents have to turn into private investigators in order to push the CMS to take action. To add insult to injury, parents are often kept in the dark about the options they have to challenge maintenance payments.

I turned the spotlight on the loopholes he used to claim he had no earnings despite having a job, and built up a stack of evidence as thick as your arm.”

Lee, a mother whose story is similar to others we hear at Gingerbread said: "It's made me an ace private investigator against my nature. I've turned up all the evidence – jobs, company directorships, director's loans, payslips, spending, assets – everything you can think of. I turned the spotlight on the loopholes he used to claim he had no earnings despite having a job, and built up a stack of evidence as thick as your arm."

The government says that it is catering for all circumstances, and is working closely with HMRC to identify and prevent maintenance evasion. But in the vein of simplifying their service and saving on administrative costs, children are losing out.

Gingerbread is calling for the Department for Work and Pensions to have a comprehensive strategy to combat evasion and avoidance to ensure children do not go without.

Gingerbread has lots of helpful advice and information about this issue. So if you think your child maintenance calculation is wrong or you don't think the full circumstances are being taken into account, please take a look at advice for cases still under the Child Support Agency (CSA) as well as cases now under the new CMS.

You can help Gingerbread spread the word about this failing CMS by sharing the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

Since the launch Maintenance Matters last year, we've made amazing progress. We've galvanised support across the political divide and continue to work with single parents to share their stories. Now with a newly elected government, we want to support more single parents to engage with their MP and campaign on the issues that matter to them.

Check out Gingerbread's new campaign toolkit for more tips and advice on how to campaign.

By Emma Yorke

Twitter: @Gingerbread

NotSuchASmugMarriedNow1 Wed 05-Jul-17 16:59:11

It's utterly astonishing and very poor practice that the CMS can't cope with self employed people. It's 2017 for gods sake they must be able to work out how much someone is really earning (and I don't mean the minimum wage they show they are earning). Come on CMS pull your socks up!

Frith2013 Wed 05-Jul-17 17:09:51

It's been crap for the 12 years I've been attempting to get anything!

Now appalling to the point of dangerous for those who've escaped violent partners. To get CMS to progress my claim (obviously the same chlisten as my old claim!) they charge MY CHILDREN a per cent age to collect.

So my children get £2.00 a week instead of £2.50...

CrazedZombie Wed 05-Jul-17 17:33:04

Can you elaborate on the "amazing progress" (penultimate paragraph)? Support sounds like a sound bite- has anyone pledged to make proper changes?

We need to follow the lead of countries like the US and treat maintenance avoidance as seriously as not paying tax.

The onus shouldn't be on the rp to investigate. If someone claims that they are earning minimum wage for child maintenance reasons then this should be flagged for loans, mortgages and credit card applications. It's a form of child abuse to withhold maintenance payments.

Faithless12 Wed 05-Jul-17 17:40:11

I agree that we should treat it like the US and jail people who evade paying it. I would also say that £7 is not enough as a minimum and there should be a fair minimum that is paid regardless of how long it takes someone to pay. It should be a true half of what it costs to raise a child not what we currently do at all.

QuiteLikely5 Wed 05-Jul-17 17:52:08

Thank goodness someone is tackling this issue!

There is the issue of the self employed fathers who earn a fortune but declare a pittance to the tax man

Graphista Wed 05-Jul-17 17:59:55

First I've heard of this campaign and I'm very active on this issue.

I've been dealing with a non paying nrp for 14 years. Absolutely no reason it should have taken over 2 years to get the first payment. He was in the army I was able to give his full contact details inc work address and service no to csa yet they did nothing unless I made a formal complaint it got to where I was making an official complaint almost every month!

Over the years he has skated under the radar by paying some months and not others, so they'd look at our case and go 'well he paid the last 2 months' yes but the previous 2 he didn't.

Arrears weren't collected. His pay/income wasn't/isn't monitored NONE of the agencies that have dealt with collection since it came in and was removed from the power of judges has monitored income, the system relies on reporting by either parent. The nrp isn't going to tell them because it'll cost them, the RP can't tell because they usually don't know.

My ex didn't report his promotion, acting up or his new additional job BUT he reported every time he and new Mrs had another kid. Because that gets them a discount (why? RP don't have less expenditure if nrp has more kids, the older children don't suddenly cost less. RP has to consider the financial ramifications of having more kids why shouldn't the nrp?)

The software they use has never and still doesn't flag when the payment has or hasn't been received by the agency. So yet again it's down to the RP to report before they even KNOW the IT capability is there they just Cba to sort it.

So that then means it's usually at least another month till that's sorted.

Arrears are allowed to be paid on a payment plan? A one off ok but if it's a regular occurrence no they should be putting money aside for their kids. My ex once tried to claim reason no money in account for payment was due to lost card angry you can still organise your account even if you lose your card! And the agency accepted his explanation!!

As has been said on many threads on this issue, have the money paid REGULARLY by govt to RP's and the govt is then the creditor the nrp owes, bet they'd bloody chase the money then!

No discount for having more kids and CERTAINLY not for just living with someone else's kids!

Penalties HAVE to be enforced. They mean nothing if they're never enforced. When was the last time you learned of someone losing their house or car, being fined £100's, or even going to jail for non payment of child maintenance? It never happens.

It's taken FOURTEEN YEARS to get a deduction from earnings order placed on my ex. I've been chasing them this time since November. So that's almost 8 months!

In the meantime dd feels the poor relation among her friends, not just financially but in having a father that gives a damn and a govt that will deal with him when he doesn't.

It needs to be a CRIMINAL not civil offence.

It needs to be made SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE to behave like this.


Changedname3456 Wed 05-Jul-17 18:21:47

"It needs to be made SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE to behave like this."

Totally agree. It would also be nice if it was socially unacceptable to move your kids away from the "nrp" even when that "nrp" is doing 50% of the overnights and childcare.

There's always a shit load of focus (rightly) on parents that don't pay. Not so much on parents who deliberately restrict access to the children when the partnership dissolves.

And before anyone jumps in with the obvious accusations, I pay every penny I'm due to and then some, for the privilege of driving almost 200 miles each way to see my DC.

The CMS are fuckwits, but they're not half as fuckwitted, deliberately sexist and mired in 19th Century attitudes as "Family" Court

Carolinesbeanies Wed 05-Jul-17 18:34:08

Ill agree with criminalising, as long as mothers who frustrate access for the hell of it get criminalised too.

(Not particularly relevant, I know)

IMO, the CMS has had increase after increase into the powers they have at their disposal and still it appears to fail in particular circumstances. Theyve gone from a position of disregarding previously court ordered property settlements, to claim set criteria calculations. Theyve secured access to HMRC to ascertain income within days. Theyve an automated legal enforcement system for non payment. How many more powers do gingerbread feel they need?

If a NRP is hiding assets /income, then who should be responsible for unravellng that? Surely HMRC in the current system? Not the CMS. What about malicious reports from RPs?

I would prefer to see easier access back to courts to resolve these issues. Its ridiculous that a RP whose been frustrated by the CMS, is unable to revert to court to be heard unless they can show extenuating circumstances. But I suppose this is what happens when we quietly let the state remove our legal rights of access to a legal system on behalf of our children. Where were gingerbread when they did that?

Faithless12 Wed 05-Jul-17 18:39:18

@Changedname3456 if it wasn't for the driving and 200 miles each way you could be my ex. Except what he fails to mention is he hasn't actually paid a penny for his child's day to day expenses but buys massive presents which can only stay at his which is only ever visited fortnightly. He refuses to buy clothes even when it's clearly needed and he wasn't ever doing 50% care in fact he moaned about any childcare that meant he couldn't pretend to work until late. Oh and if I sent him with an extra tshirt he took it and kept it. I moved away as it made financial sense to move closer to family to get help and support.
However mutual friends comment about how nice it is to have a hands on dad and how nice it must be to have an ex who actually pays. He clearly talks the talk.

Carolinesbeanies Wed 05-Jul-17 18:53:21

..and I will add, having read your post changedname, that NRPs should have the same access to legal recourse too and not excluded by making it financially prohibitive. Excluding domestic violence etc, where a RP refuses to co-operate over access, and as in your case changedname, moves to frustrate the situation, custody should automatically revert to the parent who will support access. Its not rocket science.

Its time children were removed as the punishment stick and 'pay check' theyre currently used as in some cases. (But then we get into the whole ridiculous housing/benefits/16 hours farce) If the state feel they should support a mother with a property with a bedroom/s for children, then separated fathers should receive the identical benefits and support for housing and a bedroom for his children to stay in. We have a further ridiculous situation that not only do NR fathers not get the housing support mothers do, or the benfits (even when theres a clear shared custody arrangement) but they then lose rights to shared custody because they havent got suitable accomodation.

Fathers are expected, and are clearly capable of working and supporting children alone.
Many many do as that is the only option they have if they wish to have shared or full custody. (Just because theyre not all over social media 24/7 doesnt mean they dont exist. Theyre busy. Working)
Yet separated women suddenly become 'disabled' by their children. The system needs to change and the inequitous swing to resident mothers needs to be addressed. Thats if anyones interested in the actual needs of the children that is.

Graphista Wed 05-Jul-17 18:53:38

The 'but RP's stop nrps seeing their kids' ALWAYS gets trotted out

A not what thread is about.
B kids are not 'pay for play' they need fed, clothed, housed EVERY DAY
C I have yet to come across an nrp who has GENUINELY been unfairly stopped from seeing their children. Legally it's actually the CHILD/REN that have the right to a relationship with the parent not vice versa. All the cases I know of there's damn good reasons there's no contact happening.

Also 'I pay every penny I'm supposed to' are you paying the same toward the cost of your child/ren as the RP is? Enough to cover rent, fuel, food, toiletries, medical products, clothes, hobbies, furniture, equipment, toys, transport, school stuff, hobbies? I highly doubt it. If you're referring to csa/cms amount that's a MINIMUM

Henrythehoover Wed 05-Jul-17 19:01:14

I've been trying to get money for my dd for the last 10yrs a few weeks ago got a letter saying he ows £100. Still never seen a penny

Carolinesbeanies Wed 05-Jul-17 19:05:37

"Oh and if I sent him with an extra tshirt he took it and kept it. I moved away as it made financial sense to move closer to family to get help and support. "

My neighbours sons ex, does exactly this. Every week. Not one item of clothing has been returned to him and he has to buy new. The dilemma is little one loves her new outfit and wants to wear it home to mummys. Hes too soft and lets her. Plenty of petty bitter ex wives out there too faithless as well, clearly moving house as the 'disabled by child' kicks in and someone else has to help.

As to this, "I have yet to come across an nrp who has GENUINELY been unfairly stopped from seeing their children. "

This is so utterly ignorant its unbelievable. Fathers have no voice, which is merely a reflection of the appalling situation we still have. Perhaps gingerbread would like to engage with and support Fathers too, they may even resolve some of the issues theyve raised here if they did.

Faithless12 Wed 05-Jul-17 19:20:24

@carolinesbeanies I dislike your terminology and I don't see many men you are forced by the ineptness of their exes to work less hours. In the one case that he does he genuinely has 50/50 and still earns a good wage as for some reason men are paid more than women.

Their are bad people on all sides but it's far more detrimental to a child to grow up where they are being inadequately provided for because their NRP wants to hurt the RP.

abbsisspartacus Wed 05-Jul-17 20:28:10

My ex won't see his daughter and blames me for it he just stopped showing up one day I rang him he changed his number I asked his mom she refused to get involved years later I'm still the bad guy and he has never paid they have her email they won't use it they said they would pay her five pounds a week as long as it went straight to her account so I opened her an account still nothing and still I'm slagged off she is 17 years old he will probably get a job when she turns 18 and he no longer has to pay

smileyfacechocolatebutton Wed 05-Jul-17 20:30:24

**Excluding domestic violence etc, where a RP refuses to co-operate over access, and as in your case changedname, moves to frustrate the situation, custody should automatically revert to the parent who will support access. Its not rocket science.

I love this, the assumption that RPs never move because they need to be near family support, better paid jobs, new relationship etc, only because they want to 'frustrate access’. Its also always assumed that the children want to see the nrp and the rp is stopping them, in many cases children do not want contact but this is supposed to be ignored so the nrp has their 'rights'. You would really uproot children from their home and the parent they have been raised by?!

ThomasRichard Wed 05-Jul-17 20:34:49

I'd love to stay and comment on the actual blog post but I see this discussion has already been hijacked to discuss how unfair it all is on the nrp hmm

ShapelyBingoWing Wed 05-Jul-17 20:36:46

Thread: let's talk about this particular issue.

NRPs: [talks about separate issue]

IfNot Wed 05-Jul-17 20:40:25

How depressing that on a thread about how do many men don't pay for their own kids up pop the apologists and the "evil lazy single mother" fables.
A MASSIVE number of fathers do not pay. I don't have the percentage of absent fathers who do pay willingly but I know many many do not, and there is still this idea that it's fucking optional. It's not. I as a mother feed house clothe and entertain my child. His father rocks up every few months with a present. It's neglect plain and simple. And in my 40 years I have NEVER met a woman who keeps the father from seeing the kids. Despite what he might tell his mates. I do agree that fathers with actual 50 50 custody should get access to housing help and text credits so they can work flexibly. There are precious few of these though.
And no, I don't feel " disabled " by my dc. How rude. I work, but as the only actual parent, the one at both ends of the day 24/7 I think it's beneficial to my child that he sees me occasionally.
It's fucking disgraceful that my dp, when he lives with us in the future, will pay for another man's child ( happily as he is a gem) while the actual father doesn't work and moans about the cost of the train fare for his infrequent visits.
Let's be real about who deserves condemnation here, eh?

AssassinatedBeauty Wed 05-Jul-17 20:40:56

I knew when I saw this thread that it would be immediately hijacked by people talking about their own soapbox issue rather than the actual topic. Why do so many nrp resent paying for their own children so much? It's shameful and should be socially unacceptable.

Diamonddealeroncemore Wed 05-Jul-17 20:44:20

I've recently contacted my MP about the CMS. I've waited nine years and still no payments have been taken, they supposedly have all these new powers and yet every time the exH writes another letter saying they've got it wrong everything stops while they write back to him. And he continuously moves address so they can't find him then I have to pay hundreds to take him to court and find out where he's living. He now owes about 20k and they have a liability order but I'm still waiting.... and in the meantime he has contact at weekends and half the school hols and takes DS on frequent foreign holidays while I'm waiting for some financial contribution to his upbringing. It's a disgrace. He should be banged up in jail that might bring him to his senses. I divorced him for being a controlling bully and the CMS are facilitating him carrying on that behaviour controlling me by not paying what he owes whilst jetting about on holiday.

Lottie991 Wed 05-Jul-17 21:00:21

My kids father is an absent father, He pays absolutely nothing for my children, Even when he had a job he didn't pay he would just ignore the cms and they did nothing about it.
He currently uses the loophole of getting his wife to work to avoid paying.
I've given up with the cms just as useless as the csa, Only you have to now pay for the privilege. No one knows what they are doing when you ring up, They aren't pro active at all you have to constantly be on their case and the phone calls aren't cheap, I was paying more in phonecalls than what I received in maintenance, Funding a service which is completely useless for people with non complient nrps.
I gave up in the end it wasn't worth my time or the stress.

Just as useless as the csa only you have to pay for the service.

becotide Wed 05-Jul-17 21:25:45

My ex quit his job when his girlfriend had a baby, and has been a full time stay at home parent for 6 years.

His contact with my children has been cut down to 6 hours per week, but this is not financial. It's because he was neglecting them. They go to his house now because they are old enough to be left alone and therefore old enough to leave if they feel like it, but for a very long time we used a contact centre.

They visit if they want to. They don't always want to. He tells all and sundry that I have poisoned them against him, but I didn't, he did that himself.

LowGravity Wed 05-Jul-17 21:49:17

I have just today been told by CMS that they have based my new lowered cm on 'evidence' produced by nrp. They apparently will not be checking this with HMRC until the review is due next year, despite the fact tax returns have been filed since they took over the case. Nope, they're just going to take his word for it.

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