UK – A fairer child maintenance system for a country where paying for your children is ‘now the norm’



New official statistics on the proportion of separated parents who are paying for their children through the Child Support Agency.

The proportion of separated parents who are paying for their children through the Child Support Agency has reached an historic high, with more than 4 in 5 parents meeting their financial responsibility, new official statistics show.

As the number of parents paying continues to rise, the percentage having to be chased to pay continues to fall. The number of deduction from earnings orders, where parents have the money deducted at source because they refuse to pay voluntarily, has dropped by more than 20% over the past five years.

The news comes as the government continues the biggest transformation of the child maintenance system in Britain in a generation – moving from an adversarial system to a collaborative one.

Work and Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, said:

We now live in a society where paying for your children after a break-up is the norm. And so, we’ve started the biggest push to help parents to collaborate to support their children – both financially and otherwise – that this country has ever seen. Britain is moving from relying on a divisive and unpopular state child maintenance service to parents working together for the sake of their children.

Last month new help for over quarter of a million separated parents through innovative projects around the country – including face-to-face mediation and counselling – was unveiled. It’s part of a £20 million package of support to help parents collaborate in the best interests of their children.

Today, the Government announced that, after careful consideration of the views of separated parents, it would be reducing the ongoing collection charge for receiving parents who choose to use the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS) from a planned 7% to 4%, while keeping the charge for paying parents at 20% on top of their payment.

Steve Webb added:

Having a charge for using the CMS will provide a nudge to parents to try to sort things out for themselves if they can. Similarly, parents can escape the ongoing collection charge altogether by opting for the DirectPay service, and they can rest assured that the state will still step in and enforce payments if they were to ever stop.

Victims of domestic violence and abuse will be fast-tracked into the state service with no upfront fee.

Thousands have already visited the new government-funded web app Sorting out Separation, which is the first ever one-stop shop for separated families. Helping with all the issues thrown up by a break up, it aims to help parents who have decided their only option is to part, minimise the impact of their break up on their children. A network of telephone services offering help with collaboration will also be rolled out later this year.

More information

Child maintenance outcomes in the quarter to March 2013 stood at 81.0%. Deduction from earnings orders have fallen from 74,550 (April 2007 to March 2008) to 56,700 (April 2012 to February 2013). Full details and definitions of the official Child Support Agency Quarterly Summary of Statistics can be found here:

The CMS was launched to parents with four children or more with the same non-resident parent in December 2012. It will open to applicants with two or more children and subsequently all new applicants from later this year. There will be an upfront fee of £20 for getting a calculation or opening a case.

For victims of domestic violence, there will also be a blind-sighted version of DirectPay, ensuring the most vulnerable in society get the financial support, and protection, they need.

Recognising the views of stakeholders, the government has also confirmed that the flat-rate deduction for child maintenance for those on benefits will be set at £7 rather than £10 – an increase of £2 on the current flat-rate.

The Written Ministerial Statement can be found here:

The Sorting Out Separation web app can be found at:

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