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The Government has responded to the consultation on the future of child maintenance and has set out changes to make separated parents agree their own family-based arrangements for their children's ongoing financial support.
The current Child Support Agency scheme is set to close to new customers from next year. A new and streamlined child maintenance service will be launched in the biggest overhaul of the system since it was first set up in 1993.
Single parent charity Gingerbread has accused the Government of being blind to impact of the charges. Its chief executive said: "The Government has still failed to grasp the damaging effect on children of charging fees to access and use the Child Support Agency.
"It is disappointing that the Government intends to plough on with plans that will make it harder to get child maintenance for many, after the Prime Minister himself has recognised the need to support single parents dealing with ‘runaway' ex-partners".
Parents will be given the option of whether to make their own, family-based arrangements or to use the new child maintenance service, for which there will be a charge. However, in cases where people have suffered domestic violence, their case will be fast-tracked directly onto the statutory service and no payment will be required to enter the system.
Parents who fail to pay their maintenance will be pursued with the full range of new enforcement tools available, and will face additional penalty charges.
Work and Pensions Minister, Maria Miller said: "Too often the current child maintenance system pushes families down the statutory route by default and takes responsibility away from parents, causing conflict and hostility.
"The Government is clear about the importance of strong family relationships in a child's life, and that is no different post-separation. We therefore want to support parents to work together, where possible, to make their own family-based arrangements which have the best interests of their children at their heart."
To read the Government's response to the consultation in full, click here (Pdf).
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