The Child Maintenance Service is an essential backstop against poverty
The Child Maintenance Service provides a guarantee to separated parents, with almost £1bn collected in 2020
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is not a service anyone wants to use.
It’s there as a backstop when things go wrong – just like the welfare safety net that we spent over £100bn on over the last year.
It’s there to make sure that even when a relationship between parents breaks down, their financial responsibilities to their children continue, overseen by an objective government service.
And it’s there to step in when a parent deliberately tries to dodge their duty.
The vast majority of parents in separated families do all they can to make sure that child maintenance is paid. A record high proportion of payments are made on time and in full, with almost £1bn collected during 2020.
And the money that is paid is vital to thousands of children. It’s a truth not well known that the work of the Child Maintenance Service lifts hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty by making sure payments are made and received.
I recently met MPs to discuss child poverty and the CMS, and open their eyes to the huge amount of work done to get almost £1bn to children in the UK.
Even through this difficult year when people have seen their pay cheques shrink, or sadly lost their jobs, maintenance payments have continued with adjustments made to meet the needs of both parents as far as possible.
Getting an arrangement in place improves a child’s life and their chances for the future.
And of course, where an arrangement isn’t respected or can’t be reached, the CMS can – and does – enforce payments.
Over recent years we’ve taken action to improve the service, bolstering its powers to tackle parents who refuse to pay what they owe. We’ve done that by allowing our investigators to access business accounts to secure unpaid child maintenance, and removing passports if child maintenance payments are continually refused.
We have also moved more of our service online – latest stats show eight out of 10 new claims are made online – while we have also set up a new web chat service to support claims.
As a service that people turn to in need, the CMS delivers. It helps parents negotiate their responsibilities and gets vital financial support to hundreds of thousands of children.
It’s another service that is an ally in our common goal: giving all children the best start in life.
Baroness Stedman-Scott is a Conservative Peer and minister for Work and Pensions