Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller promised a new child maintenance system that was “fairer for children” today, as she answered questions on the exemption from maintenance liability for some part-time public servants.
Part-time fire-fighters, service personnel, local councillors, auxiliary coastguards and lifeboat crew members amongst others, currently escape having to pay child maintenance on their earnings from their work. Regulations currently out for consultation would remove these special exemptions.
The issue was raised by Caerphilly MP Wayne David
in a Commons Adjournment debate today where the Minister paid tribute to the vital work performed by the exempted groups:
They give a great deal to our community and they understand the importance of duty. What is letting them down is a broken child maintenance system. It’s letting them down and its letting down many other people as well.
She added: No matter how praiseworthy the efforts of those in these part-time professions, they are in many cases also parents and their children should be foremost in our minds.
At the moment a non-resident parent who is a member of the Territorial Army deployed to Afghanistan for a number of months, deriving their sole income for this period from their pay as a soldier has a child maintenance liability of nil. This compares with regular soldiers serving alongside them who continue to pay maintenance.
Ms Miller said: The effect of this is to leave the children of TA soldiers who are non-resident parents, deployed on operations, entirely unsupported for an extended period.
The complexity of the current (2003) statutory child maintenance scheme and the shortcomings of its IT system made including the earnings from these workers too cumbersome and prohibitively expensive.
The Government’s reforms to the child maintenance system are designed to encourage and support parents to make collaborative family-based arrangements wherever possible.
For those unable to make their own arrangements there will be a new, more efficient and effective statutory maintenance service with a brand new computer system. New rules and information sourced from HMRC will allow the groups currently exempted to be made liable to pay maintenance on their part-time earnings.
Research shows that around half of CSA parents with care and a majority of non-resident parents felt that they would make a family-based arrangement if they had the right support.
Closing date for submissions is 23 February 2012.