News In Focus
Child support changes in force today
Government changes to complete the reform of the child maintenance system in the UK come into force today (11 August).
Under the reforms, the Child Support Agency (CSA) will be wound down over the next three years, with parents being encouraged either to make their own arrangements or take advantage of the Government’s Direct Pay system.
Under Direct Pay, which has been piloted since January, the new Child Maintenance Service will work out an amount for parents to pay and provide guidance on setting up regular payments using a new online self-service account. Payments are then arranged and kept track of between parents themselves, and the Child Maintenance Service will only intervene if necessary in the event of problems or missed payments.
There are no ongoing charges for this service, which operates similarly to ordinary online banking formats. Anyone who is already within the new Child Maintenance Service can now take advantage of it.
A third option will be for families to transfer into a replacement statutory system in which the Child Maintenance Service will collect and pay maintenance, again with the option of parents tracking progress using the self-service account. There is an initial £20 application fee, and ongoing collection charges will apply (20% for the paying parent on top of the maintenance calculation, and for the receiving parent 4% of the amounts received), to discourage its use when parents could instead work together.
Other recent changes include an online facility for employers, to make it easier for businesses required to deduct child maintenance from employees' pay, and a direct interface with HMRC enabling a paying parent's income information to be pulled directly from the tax database, as well as the introduction of annual reviews to ensure child maintenance amounts are updated regularly.
Child Maintenance Minister Steve Webb said: “The new online facility is an important part of the new service and I have no doubt that it will very quickly become a normal part of child maintenance management for many families.
“But most importantly, the new system encourages parents to work together in the interests of their children and will help many to take the state out of their maintenance arrangements altogether.”
Click here for information on the changeover of cases from current Child Support Agency arrangements.