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Child Maintenance

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 20th July 2011.

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Photo of Anne Begg Anne Begg Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to the statement on the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission website that Child Maintenance Options helps over 100,000 children to benefit from family-based maintenance, what analysis the Commission has undertaken on the causal impact of contact with the Options service as a determining factor in the maintenance arrangements parents subsequently make, including the type of arrangement compared to other factors which could have influenced their decision, including (a) the quality of relationship between the parents, (b) their emotions, attitudes and beliefs and (c) affordability.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system. I have asked the Child Maintenance Commissioner to write to the hon. Member with the information requested and I have seen the response.

Letter from Noel Shanahan

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions about the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Child Maintenance Commissioner.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the statement on the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission website that Child Maintenance Options helps over 100,000 children to benefit from family-based maintenance what analysis the Commission has undertaken on the causal impact of contact with the Options service as a determining factor in the maintenance arrangements parents subsequently make including the type of arrangement compared to other factors which could have influenced their decision including (a) the quality of relationship between the parents (b) their emotions attitudes and beliefs and (c) affordability.

The Commission has undertaken an evaluation of the Child Maintenance Options service to assess the extent to which parents made a child maintenance arrangement following contact with the helpline element of the service.

It was not possible to use the standard method to measure the impact of the Options service, as a control group of non-users could not be identified. Instead, the research measured the “effect” of the service by comparing Jobcentre Plus callers with moderate to high use of the Options service with low users—the latter being a proxy for a standard non-user comparison group. (It was not possible to look at the “effect” of CM Options on non-Jobcentre Plus callers as too few of this group were low users of the service and therefore it was not possible to generate a credible comparison group). The two groups were matched on a wide range of factors known to predict maintenance outcomes, the only differences being the level of contact with Child Maintenance Options. Therefore any differences in outcomes between the two groups would be due to the level of interaction with the Child Maintenance Options service.

The research found that around 7% of parents referred from Jobcentre Plus who had a ‘moderate to high’ level of interaction with the service had a maintenance arrangement in place eight or nine months after contact with the service that they would otherwise not have had. The effect of the service is not minor considering the low intensity of intervention, with most parents having just one or two short telephone calls.

It is not easy to capture emotions, attitudes and beliefs in a quantitative study of this nature, however, we believe the large number of topic areas used in the matching process will have captured this as far as is possible. The report is available on the Commission's website at:

http://www.childmaintenance.org/en/publications/research.html

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