Children: Maintenance

Department for Work and Pensions written question – answered at on 15 May 2024.

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Photo of Ashley Dalton Ashley Dalton Shadow Minister (Equalities Office)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many child maintenance cases were moved from collect and pay to direct pay in (a) 2022 and (b) 2023.

Photo of Ashley Dalton Ashley Dalton Shadow Minister (Equalities Office)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many child maintenance cases were moved from collect and pay to direct pay where the child maintenance service was aware of domestic abuse in (a) 2022 and (b) 2023.

Photo of Ashley Dalton Ashley Dalton Shadow Minister (Equalities Office)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what his planned timetable is for laying secondary legislation to implement the Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act 2023.

Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) operates 2 service types: Direct Pay and Collect and Pay. In Direct Pay cases, the CMS provides a maintenance calculation and issues a payment schedule, but the payments are arranged privately between the receiving parent and the paying parent. In Collect and Pay, the CMS collects the maintenance from the paying parent and transfers it to the receiving parent.

Since Direct Pay was introduced, the CMS has made several improvements to how the service operates. The importance of full and on-time maintenance payments is emphasised in all cases and the CMS will notify parents at the start of every case, and at each annual review, what to do if their arrangement breaks down.

The CMS also sends SMS messages to all receiving parents using the Direct Pay service to remind them to contact the CMS if their maintenance arrangement is not working. My Child Maintenance Case, which is a parent’s online service account with the CMS, also reminds parents to check their bank account for receipt of direct payments and encourages digital reporting of any missed payments.

If a Direct Pay arrangement breaks down, the case will be moved to Collect and Pay where the CMS collects the money from the paying parent and transfers it to the receiving parent. Further enforcement action can also be taken if parents continue to fail to pay.

Government takes the issue of domestic abuse extremely seriously and recognises that domestic abuse often continues and can worsen after separation, which can have detrimental impacts on the welfare of children.

The CMS has procedures in place to ensure victims and survivors of domestic abuse can use its services safely. Of 29,000 new applications to the CMS in the quarter ending December 2023, 56% of applications were exempt from the application fee, largely on the grounds of domestic abuse.

The CMS recognises that domestic abuse can take many forms including physical, emotional, or financial abuse, violent or threatening behaviour and coercive control and has procedures in place to ensure domestic abuse cases are handled appropriately.

For parents using the Direct Pay service, the CMS can act as an intermediary to facilitate the exchange of bank details to help ensure there is no unwanted contact between parents and can provide information on how to set up bank accounts with a centralised sort code, which reduces the risk of a parent’s location being traced. CMS caseworkers will also signpost, where needed, to suitable domestic abuse organisations, if domestic abuse is raised or suspected.

The Department publishes quarterly statistics for the CMS. Latest statistics are available up to December 2023, with statistics for the number of child maintenance cases moved from collect and pay to direct pay shown in ‘Table 4: Service Type Changes, Great Britain, October 2015 to December 2023’ of the National tables.

The information requested in relation to how many child maintenance cases were moved from collect and pay to direct pay where the child maintenance service was aware of domestic abuse in (a) 2022 and (b) 2023, is not readily available and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.

The Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 28 June 2023 following a Private Members Bill that had full Government support. We announced a consultation early 2024 to seek views on how the CMS collects and transfers maintenance.

On 8 May, the Department published a public consultation, Improving the Collection and Transfer of Payments, which follows the Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act 2023 receiving Royal Assent. The consultation proposes to remove the Direct Pay service completely, which will go further than the measures set out in the Act and provide the same level of protection for all parents.

The consultation closes 31st July 2024. The Government will then carefully consider the feedback and a response will be published.

To find out more information go to: Child Maintenance: Improving the collection and transfer of payments - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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