Gingerbread has today criticised the government’s reports of its own success in collecting child maintenance as ‘misleading’, after the DWP launched a consultation on new reporting standards.
Gingerbread argues that the reforms the DWP has proposed will still fail to give an accurate picture of how many children are receiving the child maintenance they should.
The DWP has announced it intends to continue to automatically count as paid in full all cases where CSA-calculated maintenance is paid between parents (instead of via the CSA collection service) (2), even though the DWP admits it has no way of measuring whether this is true or not (3). Gingerbread argues that on this basis the department’s proposed ‘more accurate’ statistics will still be misleading.
Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “While we welcome the government’s move towards more transparency in its child maintenance statistics, it is simply not statistically robust to count all ‘maintenance direct’ cases as fully paid, when the DWP has no idea whether this is true, and it seems extraordinary that the DWP would continue to over-claim in this way.
“This comes at a time when the government is planning to start charging both parents to collect child maintenance, in an effort to make them use a ‘maintenance direct’ arrangement (4). Yet the DWP itself has estimated that only around 28% of these ‘maintenance direct’ arrangements are likely to be fully paid (5). This will create a wholly misleading picture of the amount of money going to children.”
Gingerbread has already criticised the DWP for regarding a paying parent as ‘compliant’, and a CSA arrangement as ‘effective’, even if as little as one partial payment has been made in the last three months, a measure which has masked the full extent of non-payment. While the latest proposals for reform do go some way to address these criticisms, Gingerbread feels they do not go far enough.
Gingerbread will be responding to the consultation in full.
Notes to editors
(1) Consultation on Proposed Changes to the CSA Quarterly Summary of Statistics (http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/index.php?page=csa)
(2) This is known at present as a ‘maintenance direct’ arrangement. Under the future new scheme, which started to be introduced on a limited ‘pathfinder basis’ from December 2012, it will be called a ‘Direct Pay’ arrangement.
(3) Minister Steve Webb told Parliament that the Department takes the view that “one of the parents would contact us if their Maintenance Direct arrangement was no longer working”. (Parliamentary Answer 4/2/2013, col 93-94W)
(4) Under consultation proposals announced last July (Command Paper Cm 8399) the government propose to levy collection charges of 20% upon non-resident parents who use the statutory collection service, as well as an ongoing 7% collection deduction upon single parents families due maintenance, to encourage both parents not to use the collection service, but instead pay the maintenance calculated between themselves.
(5) A DWP research paper Estimating the impacts of CSA case closure and charging (2012) estimated that, whilst 90% of non-resident parents would choose a ‘Direct Pay’ arrangement once charging was introduced, a year later there would be only around 28% of Direct Pay arrangements that were stable and compliant. See Chapter Seven of https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/176959/estimating-impacts-csa-case-closure-and-charging.pdf.pdf