The Child Support Agency is to be replaced by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-MEC), a Non-Departmental Public Body run by an independent board, which will not be operational until 2010. Cases are likely be transferred to a single system in 2010 which will take about 3 years. The White Paper A New System of Child Maintenance (Cm 6979), published on 13 December 2006, proposes:
- bringing forward legislation to end the requirement that parents with care who claim benefits are treated as applying for child maintenance;
- in 2008, extending to all parents with care the right to keep up to £10 of their child maintenance a week before it affects their benefits;
- from 2010, significantly increase the amount of maintenance that parents on benefit can keep before it affects the level of benefit they receive;
- using the latest tax-year information to work out how much child maintenance should be paid, unless current income differs by at least 25% from that tax information;
moving away from the current system where a small change in income can change maintenance awards. Instead the plan is to use a system of fixed-term awards of one year (with some exceptions for a significant change of circumstance). The income used to work out how much a parent has to pay will be updated each year;
- using weekly income before deductions (gross), rather than after deductions (net) to work out how much child maintenance should be paid;
- once the future scheme starts, we increasing the flat rate of maintenance paid by most non-resident parents on benefits from £5 to £7 a week.
The main change is that working out maintenance can no longer be held up by a non-resident parent refusing to give information about their earnings. This information will now come from HM Revenue and Customs.
In addition to heavier enforcement procedures, it is proposed that the birth registration system will promote joint registration by requiring that that both parents names are registered following the birth of their child (unless it would be unreasonable to do so).
The consultation period closes on 13 March 2007. A copy of the White Paper is on the DWP website at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/childmaintenance/. The consultation period closes on 13 March 2007. A copy of the White Paper is on the DWP website at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/childmaintenance/.