Peter Grant MP has accused the UK Government’s Child Maintenance Service of failing the very children it should be supporting.
Last week the Glenrothes & Central Fife MP secured a debate in Parliament on the performance of the Child Maintenance Service in recovering payments from absent parents. The Glenrothes and Central Fife MP has said that he has, for too long, been contacted by parents whose children are not receiving the money owed to them by their absent parent. When opening the debate, Mr Grant said “many absent parents do their best to care for their children, and I do not want to give the impression that everybody whose relationship has broken up is trying to avoid their responsibilities”, but he added that some don’t and said the Child Maintenance Service owes it to those children and resident parents to make sure that the absent parent complies with their legal and moral responsibilities.
Mr Grant said that despite recent changes giving the CMS more powers to recover money, thousands of children every year still denied the financial support they are entitled to. And he criticised the recent decision to start “writing off” some of the debts, often without consulting the person who is owed the money. He referred to one constituent who had been asked to agree to the write-off of nearly £18,000 her children were owed by their father, despite the fact that CMS had details of his employment and could have recovered the money from his salary.
Yet ironically, Mr Grant said, he also hears from constituents who are being pursued for sums of money they clearly can’t afford.
Mr Grant’s comments drew support from both Labour and Conservative MPs, many of whom described similar experiences for their own constituents.
Commenting after the debate, the Glenrothes and Central Fife MP said:
“I have dealt with cases where absent parents have tried to hide their income and the CMS leave it to the resident parent to produce the evidence that their ex-partner is effectively committing fraud against them. They use simple dodges that wouldn’t succeed in hiding their money from HMRC; they shouldn’t be able to use these dodges to hide it from their own children.
“From experience, too many people feel as though the CMS are not working with them but are an obstacle to them. And far too often people decide to give up on their pursuit of the money owed to their children as they can no longer take the stress.
“There have been improvements since the days of the discredited Child Support Agency but the system is still deeply flawed and all too often it works against the interests of the very children it’s supposed to be helping”