A senior Conservative Peer has announced his intention to challenge the Government's plans to charge single parents to use the future Child Support Agency.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who as Margaret Thatcher’s Lord Chancellor introduced the Child Support Act 1991, has tabled an amendment that would exempt from the charges those parents who have no alternative but to use the statutory maintenance service, because private arrangements are not possible or appropriate. The amendment is due to go to a vote on Wednesday 25th January.
The amendment would prevent the Government imposing the following charges on parents who turn to the statutory maintenance service because, without its help, their children would not receive fair and regular child maintenance:
• An up-front application charge levied on the applicant (overwhelmingly ‘parents with care’, around 97% of whom are mothers) in order to use the future new Agency. The Government is discussing a charge of 100 or £50 for an applicant on benefits.
• A ‘collection charge’ taken by the Agency from each maintenance payment it collects, in the range of 7-12% of the payment, before the money is passed on for the child/children.
There is a further ‘collection surcharge’ which the Government proposes to levy on the ‘non-resident parent’, additional to actual maintenance due, in the range 15-20% of the maintenance liability, where the Agency has to step in to collect the maintenance to ensure it gets paid. This would not be affected by the amendment.
Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir said:
“We are very grateful to Lord Mackay for taking up this vital issue in the Lords, and the indications of support he has received so far show the high level of cross-party concern at the government’s proposals.
“We fully support efforts to help separated parents work together to deal with the financial, emotional and practical consequences of separation. But the government needs to realise that in very many cases that isn’t possible, and if charges are introduced then it will be children who lose out.