Children: Maintenance

Department for Work and Pensions written question – answered at on 17 May 2024.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many and what proportion of cases in which domestic abuse was disclosed were referred by the Child Maintenance Service to an Advanced Customer Support Senior Leader in (a) 2021, (b) 2022 and (c) 2023.

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

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) 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. CMS therefore continues to evolve and make positive changes to the way we deliver our service and to support our case workers.

We have measures in place to ensure victims and survivors of domestic abuse can access and use our 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 Department publishes quarterly statistics for the CMS. Latest statistics are available up to December 2023. Table 2 of the of the National tables provides the volume of applications and volume of those with an exemption due to domestic abuse for the period 2021-2023.

Quarter of Application

Application Fee Exemptions due to Domestic Abuse

Total Application Fee Exemptions

Percentage of Applications with an Exemption

[note 1]

Jan to Mar 2021

10,500

10,600

58%

Apr to Jun 2021

11,800

11,900

60%

Jul to Sep 2021

12,400

12,500

59%

Oct to Dec 2021

11,600

11,600

60%

Jan to Mar 2022

15,100

15,200

57%

Apr to Jun 2022

17,300

17,500

55%

Jul to Sep 2022

17,600

17,900

53%

Oct to Dec 2022

14,700

14,900

55%

Jan to Mar 2023

17,600

17,800

55%

Apr to Jun 2023

17,800

18,100

56%

Jul to Sep 2023

18,500

18,800

54%

Furthermore, in October 2023 the CMS introduced regulations to completely remove the application fee for all families, this came into force on the 26 February 2024.

We are also trialling the use of a single, named case worker team to help ensure victims of domestic abuse are appropriately supported. Evaluation of the trial will inform the future service we offer to survivors of domestic abuse.

CMS have procedures to prevent unwanted contact between parents and provide advice on bank accounts with a centralised sort code so their location cannot be traced. Additionally, CMS can act as an intermediary in Direct Pay cases to facilitate the exchange of bank details, which helps to ensure no personal information is shared between parents.

Further changes, The Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 28 June 2023. On 8 May 2024, the Department published a public consultation, Improving the Collection and Transfer of Payments, which follows the Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act 2023. 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).

We support our case workers to deliver our service by ensuring they receive appropriate training and have access to signposting and support that could be utilised to assist survivors of domestic abuse.

Through extensive Stakeholder engagement CMS reviewed their domestic abuse training in 2021. Training was delivered to all case workers to ensure they are equipped to recognise coercive and controlling behaviour and appropriately signpost parents in vulnerable situations. All caseworkers have access to the District Provision Toolkit which contains the most up to date information for signposting to help and support for domestic abuse across England, Scotland, and Wales.

A Domestic Abuse Plan was developed which outlines key steps for caseworkers to follow to ensure victims of domestic abuse are supported. This includes advice on contacting the police if the parent is in immediate danger or calling the police on behalf of the parent if requested to do so. Additionally, the plan directs case workers to consider a referral to an Advanced Customer Support Senior Leader if a customer requires further support.

The number of ACSSL cases that have been referred by CMS colleagues, where the referral has been categorised as ‘domestic abuse’ are as follows:

2021

2022

2023*

ACSSL Referrals from CMS colleagues categorised as domestic abuse

3

3

1

It should be noted that disclosure of domestic abuse does not automatically require an Advanced Customer Support Senior Leader (ACSSL) to become involved in supporting a case. Additionally domestic abuse may be reported at any stage of case, we do not gather data on all cases therefore the information requested on the proportion of referrals is not held, however given ACSSL referrals are very low this is also likely to be very low.

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