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Warning from charities over child maintenance

A joint statement from charities Barnardo's and Gingerbread has warned that the Government's proposed changes to the child maintenance system could negatively impact on the lives of families that rely on maintenance payments. 


Recent figures have shown that, over the last quarter, the Child Support Agency (CSA) arranged for £293million to be paid to children with separated or divorced parents.


From 2012, the Government is planning to wind down the CSA, which operates as part of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC), and replace it with an alternative scheme operated by CMEC.


All existing CSA clients will, over a phased two year period starting in 2013, be given a choice whether or not to use the new statutory system run by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. If they want to use it, they will be charged for doing so.


The charges will include an upfront application fee of £100 (£50 for those on benefits), plus an ongoing charge of between 7% and 12% of the money paid for children where payments are collected and enforced by CMEC.


That charities warn that, faced with these proposed fees, many of the 1.14 million separated parents caring for children and using the agency could be left without support - unable to afford the charges but without hope of getting their former partner to pay up voluntarily.  


Neera Sharma, Barnardo's assistant director of policy and research said:


"The Government's proposed charges are unjust and risk taking money away from those children who need it most. Small amounts of money make a big difference to families living below the breadline. Barnardo's is calling for the Government to abandon its proposals to charge upfront and ongoing fees to families living on low incomes."


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