The government is making positive changes for children caught in family conflict
Families are the cornerstones of our communities.
Whilst each is unique, the importance of the bonds that bind them together is undoubtedly universal. When these start to fray, the impact on all – but particularly children – can be significant.
That’s why it’s my priority as the minister responsible for family policy in DWP to ensure our focus is on supporting children during these difficult circumstances.
We have already given parents easier access to support and advice through the Get Help Arranging Child Maintenance website and we’re investing millions into Reducing Parental Conflict, working with experts and every local authority in England to create support for separating parents.
In a financial sense, where parents have separated, the Child Maintenance Service, alongside family-based arrangements, plays a crucial role in helping to keep around 160,000 children out of poverty each year and has arranged around £1.3 billion in child maintenance payments over the last 12 months for the benefit of 950,000 children.
In recent months, my department has taken further steps to ensure everyone can have access to the Child Maintenance Service, especially families on lower incomes, who are disproportionately affected by conflict.
This is why we are making changes to abolish the £20 application fee, so as of 26 February applying to the Child Maintenance Service will be free for all.
Furthermore, a consultation response published on 12 February will pave the way for the Child Maintenance Service to recover money faster from parents who repeatedly fail to take financial responsibility for their children.
This will allow the Child Maintenance Service to use an administrative liability order to recover unpaid child maintenance instead of applying to the courts, reducing enforcement time almost fourfold. We expect this to mean around 10,000 parents a year, who do not pay the maintenance they owe, to face further action – such as the forced sale of property or driving licence disqualification – much sooner.
A common goal across Parliament is ensuring children have the best start in life. This sentiment has been further strengthened given that I have just recently become a grandfather for the first time.
This is also evident as we roll out the biggest investment in childcare by a UK government in history, expanding free childcare for working parents whilst increasing how much parents on Universal Credit can claim for childcare and in certain cases even helping with upfront costs.
I’m very proud of these latest changes – the taxpayer benefits, but above all the measures are good for parents and potentially life-changing for children caught up in family conflict.
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