The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill has now been published (see PDF below). The intention is to replace the Child Support Agency with the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-MEC), to increase enforcement powers, to allow parents on low incomes to keep more of the maintenance owed to them and to empower more parents to make and maintain their own private maintenance arrangements. Measures include:
Removing the requirement that parents with care on benefit use the CSA (or C-MEC) to establish maintenance payments, giving them more choice over their arrangements;
Introducing a swifter and more effective administrative process, allowing C-MEC to take faster enforcement action;
Allowing C-MEC to take money out of people's bank accounts when they will not co-operate with other collection methods and deduction from earnings orders cannot be used;
Enforcing the surrender of a non-resident parent's passport or imposing a curfew on them if they fail to pay maintenance;
Simplifying the assessment process by using latest available tax-year information and, where possible, fixing the award for a year, thereby providing parents with more certainty on the amount of maintenance to be paid; and
Using gross weekly income, rather than net, as a basis for calculating a maintenance liability, meaning that less reliance is placed on the non-resident parent's co-operation, limiting opportunities for non-resident parents to manipulate income to avoid paying, and delivering a faster, more accurate and transparent maintenance calculation process.
The measures are aimed at reducing the financial burden of the child maintenance system on taxpayers and encouraging parents to pay promptly by allowing C-MEC to operate a charging scheme in respect of non-resident parents who default on payments in order to help recover the costs of enforcement. The Bill also contains new powers to share with credit reference agencies information on parents who do not pay their maintenance or debt - potentially affecting future loan or mortgage applications.
Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill