Peter Grant, MP for Glenrothes and Central Fife, recently met with Rhona Cunningham of Fife Gingerbread – a charity which supports lone parents as well as vulnerable and disadvantaged families across Fife – to discuss the public consultation document launched last month by the Department for Work & Pensions regarding a new compliance and arrears strategy for Child Maintenance.
The consultation is an opportunity for members of the general public, voluntary and community sector organisations and clients of both the CSA and CMS schemes, to have their say on how to strengthen the reformed Child Maintenance Service. There are also proposals to deal with the thousands of Child Support Agency cases in arrears or have been left unresolved for a number of months or years.
Mr Grant said: “I was delighted to meet with Rhona and her colleagues at Fife Gingerbread, an outstanding charity who go above and beyond to provide support to parents and families in overcoming many challenges such as poverty, isolation and poor mental health. A vital strand of the great work they do is the support they provide separated parents in coming to satisfactory arrangements regarding their children.”
He added: “If the CMS isn’t performing as it should then it impacts immeasurably on the welfare of the children, so I would encourage my constituents to have their say during this crucial consultation phase on how to improve this service before the 8th of February deadline.”
Rhona Cunningham, Chief Executive Officer for Fife Gingerbread, said: “Peter has been a constant support for us here at Fife Gingerbread. We regard him as much more than a local MP – throughout his career as a politician, both at local and national level, he has remained totally accessible and above all approachable. Peter is genuinely keen to hear about the issues that are having an impact on families in his local area and wider. He is also very keen to support us regardless of how hopeless the situation may appear, his commitment to justice is unwavering.”
Commenting on the current Child Maintenance Service, Gary McFadden, Gingerbread Fife’s Communications and Marketing Co-ordinator, added: “The current system is not fit for purpose and is certainly not an improvement on CSA. This is highlighted by the fact that arrears of unpaid child maintenance is still being accrued at an alarming rate (£54m for 2016/17).
“The consultation came out really under the radar and asks for a response on its plans to scrap CSA arrears and implement disqualifications of passports for non-paying parents instead of asking for feedback on if the system actually works for those who try to use it, and the measures that are in place to deter vulnerable parents from accessing it.
“Fife Gingerbread along with partners in CARF, OPFS, Poverty Alliance and Fife Council will be forming a response in the coming weeks.”
Read the full consultation documents in full here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/child-maintenance-a-new-compliance-and-arrears-strategy
If constituents would like to contact the CMS with their views they should email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: Child Maintenance Policy Team, Ground Floor North Zone E, Quarry House, Quarry Hill, Leeds, LS2 7UA.