Child Maintenance: Mothers challenge ‘persistent failure’ of the DWP over benefit

Child Maintenance is described by the government website as an “arrangement between one person and the other parent of their child” and is drafted formally with government assistance. It usually covers how a child’s living costs will be paid when parents are separated, and both parents are responsible for the costs. But four UK mothers are now challenging the Child Maintenance service, stating it has shown “persistent failure”. 

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The mothers are set to take the DWP to court, stating the government department’s Child Maintenance failures have left them in dire straits.

They told the DWP they would be undertaking a judicial review if possible, after they were driven to financial difficulty, “and, in some cases, in poverty”.

The four mothers explained how they were owed payments between £2,000 and £8,000, dating back several years.

They stated they were forced to rely on food banks and the generosity of others in order to provide for their children.

Some were even required to take on credit card debt to make ends meet. 

One mother said: “My children go without every single day because their father absolutely refuses to put his hand in his pocket.

“The Child Maintenance Service, despite having a huge raft of powers at its disposal, does nothing meaningful to force him to cough up.

“I go without so my children don’t. I never go out, and I never spend money on myself. I don’t want my boys to be stigmatised.”

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The legal challenge could affect how the Child Maintenance payment is managed in the future.

The women are set to be supported in their legal challenge by the charity Gingerbread.

Gingerbread is a charity which works with single parent families to provide them with the necessary help and support they may need when raising their children.

The charity has claimed the Child Maintenance Service has collected just over £30million through enforcement actions – which require parents to pay. 

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This, however, is less than 10 percent of the amount owed to single parents across the country. 

Victoria Benson, the chief executive of the charity, said: “It is a child’s legal right to be supported by both parents, and yet the service designed to protect this right is failing them.

“It simply cannot be right that a government service is responsible for leaving children of single parents in poverty.”

A DWP spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “While we cannot comment on current proceedings, those found to be abusing the system will find themselves subject to the full extent of our enforcement powers – including prosecution through the courts.

“We have introduced tough Child Maintenance powers to help ensure children receive the financial support they deserve, with 70 per cent of Child Maintenance due in the Collect & Pay service successfully collected in the three months to March – up from 50 per cent in 2016.”

The DWP states the majority of child maintenance debt relates to the Child Support Agency, which was replaced by the CMS in 2018.

While some split parents sort out the arrangements for their children between them, others will need the government to step in to create a more formal arrangement.

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