My Lords, clearly, we are in favour of all measures to ensure that children are getting the financial support they need. A large part of this is making sure that both parents contribute to the raising of a child, through official child support or otherwise. According to the charity Gingerbread, child maintenance alone lifts a fifth of low-income single parents out of poverty. Where parents are unequal in income, as is often the case after a separation, it is right that suitable payments for child maintenance are made. It is good to hear of the proposed changes to the Child Maintenance Service scheme, which has been a long, infamous project, causing disastrous circumstances for children and families and costing a great deal in time and resources for all involved, including the Government.
Although we are generally wary over giving powers of enforcement, we are in favour of the proposed changes to inspection. Requesting information from mortgage lenders will cut down on the number and intrusiveness of current inspections. It is important that both parents support their children; the cost of bringing up a child is considerable and generally falls on the mother, who is more likely to be in low-paid, insecure employment. Some 90% of single parents are women, and they are twice as likely to be in poverty as any other group.
However, in recognising and enforcing payments for child support, the Government need to recognise and act on the issues that drive child poverty. For example, the two-child limit, which restricts support to a family’s first two children, is one of the key factors of child poverty, as demonstrated by many recent reports. The benefit cap also hurts families and households with multiple children, or those who live in expensive areas.
I draw the Minister’s attention to the report published last week, All Kids Count: The Impact of the Two-Child Limit After Two Years, produced jointly by the Church of England and the Child Poverty Action Group. This presents detailed and disturbing evidence of this policy’s impact after two years. It is based on interviews with more than 430 families. I urge the Minister and all Members of your Lordships’ House to give the report careful consideration, and the Government to take action on its findings.
I would welcome a new approach by the Government towards child poverty, which is widely acknowledged to be growing. Having said that, I broadly support this statutory instrument.