Parents turning away from Child Maintenance Service because of new charge, charity finds

3,700 fewer parents applied to the new service after a £20 application fee was introduced

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The Independent Online

Thousands of parents are turning away from the new government Child Maintenance Service because of new charges brought in this summer.

The warning comes from single parent charity Gingerbread which says 3,700 fewer parents applied to the new service in August than in May, after a £20 application fee was introduced on 30 June.

The charity’s analysis of government statistics on the effect that the new charge is having shows that, so far, three times as many parents are being put off from applying than the government had expected.

That means thousands fewer parents getting an official child maintenance calculation, and some oversight of their case – for example being able to report if payments aren’t made.

“Children in single parent families are already twice as likely to live in poverty as those in couple families,” said Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir. “The government should not be putting barriers in the way of the three million children growing up in single parent families getting the support they need and we urge the DWP to drop the charge.”

She said that at the moment, only two-fifths of the UK’s two million single parent families receive child maintenance payments from their child’s other parent.

“We warned the government that the charge to access the new service could make this situation even worse. These early figures seem to confirm our fears.”

The charity is also calling on the DWP to publish data it is collecting on how many of the parents who, after calling the government Child Maintenance Options helpline, decide not to apply to the CMS, then go on to successfully make their own child maintenance arrangements.

The government wants to encourage as many separated parents as possible to come to their own private arrangements, but Gingerbread has warned that for many who have experienced relationship breakdown this simply isn’t realistic.

“We don’t know yet whether the parents put off by the £20 charge are going on to make arrangements on their own, or are just giving up,” said Ms Weir. “The government must be transparent about the impact its reforms are having.”