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Lords vote against charging parents to arrange child maintenance

Date:26 JAN 2012

By Hugh Logue, Newswatch Editor

ParliamentMembers of the House of Lords voted with a majority against government proposals to charge single parents to use the Child Support Agency.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern made an amendment to block government proposals to charge single parents for using the Child Support Agency. Members of the House voted 270 to 128, a majority of 142.

However, a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the department would seek to overturn the vote: "We are disappointed that the Lords seem content to leave in place a system that has consistently failed children and we will seek to overturn this in the House of Commons.

"Our reforms would see a doubling of support for families going through a break-up to come to their own financial arrangements with a far improved statutory scheme in place for those that really need it.

"It is right and fair that there is a charge for using a service that can cost the taxpayer around £25,000 per case and almost half a billion pounds per year."

Under the proposed system, parents would be able to get initial help and information on the range of options available to them free of charge. They can then decide whether to make their own arrangements, using the help they have received or to use the statutory service for which there will be a charge. Costs could include an upfront application charge of around £100.

The government says the aim of the charge is to encourage more parents to reach agreement together without automatically falling back on the state to resolve their issues.

The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne, said the Government has got the issue "comprehensively wrong".

"The Government should never have proposed we make it harder for mums trying to raise a family on their own to get the help they are entitled to from absent fathers," Mr Byrne said.

The bill will now move to a third reading on Tuesday 31 January when members of the Lords may clarify and make further amendments before sending it back to the House of Commons.