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The National Audit Office has today published the findings of its investigation into the Department for Work & Pensions’ closure of its 1993 and 2003 child maintenance schemes.
The 1993 and 2003 ‘Child Support Agency’ schemes struggled with IT problems leading to poor customer service, backlogs and incomplete information about amounts due. Inaccurate assessments can mean that some parents receive too little for their children while others face hardship because of paying too much.
The 2012 child maintenance scheme was introduced to resolve these problems and encourage private arrangements. Since November 2013 all new applications have been made to the 2012 scheme. The Department began to tell parents in 2014 that their 1993 and 2003 scheme cases would close and that they would have to apply to the new scheme, or make their own family-based arrangements. It plans to end payments on 799,000 cases with continuing child maintenance by December 2017, and then close these cases and a further 588,000 where continuing maintenance payments are no longer due, but arrears have built up. Some parents told the NAO that closing long-standing 1993 and 2003 scheme cases can be disruptive and lead to confusion about the amount owed.Article continues below...
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The key findings of this investigation are:
National Family Mediation CEO, Jane Robey, commented:
'The scale of proposed write-off of unpaid child maintenance payments is alarming. Thousands of children up and down the country are deprived of a better quality of life as a result. Family based arrangements are by far the best answer when a relationship ends. But government intervention, by the way of child maintenance arrangements, is far less necessary than many people - including government Ministers - believe.
Agreements can be made in family mediation, and we know they are much more likely to work for everyone involved, because parents themselves have had control of the vital finance decisions that shape so many aspects of their future lives. Parents who work together after separation focus their efforts on helping their children prosper despite their separation. The government is again missing a trick by not promoting greater use of family mediation, which would help save hundreds of thousands of pounds of precious taxpayers' money.'Download the full National Audit Office report, Child Maintenance: closing cases and managing arrears on the 1993 and 2003 schemes.