Child Support developments

13 October, 2014
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

The latest government figures show a significant drop in the number of parents making new applications to the Child Support Agency following the introduction of fees for using the Agency on 30 June 2014. Figures show that in May 2014 there were 9,700 applications to the Agency but this number significantly dropped to 6,000 in August 2014.

Whilst it is inevitable that the number of new applications will vary month by month this 38% drop in new applications is no doubt linked with parents wishing to avoid paying fees to the Child Support Agency. The fees involve a £20 application fee and then an ongoing collection charge of 20% of the child support liability for the non-resident parent (NRP) and a charge of 4% of the liability for the parent with care (PWC) of the children.

The intention behind the introduction of charging fees for using the Agency is, as the government says, to try to encourage parents to “collaborate” and enter into a private agreement for the payment of child support, which does not involve the Agency.

If the parents in the 3,700 “missing” applications for the month of August have entered into a private agreement for the payment of an appropriate child support sum then that is fine. The real worry is, however, that a significant number of these parents may have a poor relationship, following their separation, with the PWC deciding he/she does not want the aggravation of having to negotiate a private agreement with the NRP but, on the other hand, being unable to pay the fees. In these cases, it is, inevitably, the children who lose out.

Whilst the government’s reason for the policy is as above, there are many who believe that one of the principal objectives behind the introduction of charging fees for using the Agency is to reduce the cost of operating the Agency by reducing the number of cases that it has to deal with. In addition to reducing costs, revenue will of course be raised by those who really have no option other than to use the Agency.

As matters stand it is, quite clearly, very early days in the new charging regime but if statistics of this nature continue to be released, then there will be real concern as to whether the children in these cases are receiving child support or whether they have, in effect, been kicked into the long grass.