UK – Child maintenance charges back on table

MPs have overturned the House of Lords defeat of a proposal to introduce charges for using the Child Support Agency to arrange child maintenance payments.

A 142 majority in the House of Lords had voted against the charges, but the Department for Work and Pensions vowed to have the vote overturned, saying “it is right and fair that there is a charge for using a service that can cost the taxpayer around £25,000 per case and almost half a billion pounds per year.”

The cost of an upfront application has however been reduced from £100 to £20. The introduction of the charges are aimed at encouraging more divorcing and separating parents to try to reach an agreement on child maintenance themselves without involving the government. Free information and initial advice is to be given to couples to assess their options, and make their own arrangements. If couples opt to rely on the Child Support Agency they will be charged the upfront application charge.

MPs in the Commons overturned the decision, as well as some other defeats in the House of the Lords. An annual limit on total household benefits of £26,000, including child benefit, is to be introduced.

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