CMS0014

 

Written evidence submitted by anonymously

 

My name is ********, I have been living in the UK since 2001 and have recently acquired British citizenship. I have 2 children (twin boys) who were born in April 2011. The father of the children has parental responsibility and we were never married. We separated when the children were just over 1 year old. The father has always been self-employed. He has a business in London (bar/restaurant), but he has been living in *****, ******, since we separated. He commutes to London every week to work in his bar on Friday and Saturday nights (the bar is only open on Fridays and Saturdays). The children live with me and only see the father for a couple of weeks on Sundays afternoons.

When we separated, as we were not married, we didn’t go to court. I was very distraught by the separation (as the relationship had an abusive nature) and pretty busy with twin boys and no family support in the UK (I am originally from Italy). I did not know what was available and I only found out about the Child Maintenance Service in 2014, when I first contacted them. However, after the CMS did their first assessment of my case I received a letter stating that the father of my children did not owe us any maintenance money as he was earning less than £7 a week. I understand this calculation was based on his National Insurance contribution. However, this was highly inconsistent with the father’s lifestyle. I had worked with him, previous to our separation, and I knew his business was very profitable. Furthermore, he was flying back and forth to ***** every week, which would have been impossible if he hadn’t had a decent wage. Finally, he was renting a 5-bedroom villa in *****, where he was living. I reported this to the CMS and asked multiple times over the years to get an investigation started. However, I was dissuaded over and over again, as the CMS officers told me it was very unlikely we would recover any money if he didn’t have assets and if he was living abroad.

I must add that I felt dismissed and that contacting the CMS is in itself an ordeal: long waiting times to speak to someone, and when you finally manage to speak to someone, they have to read through all the case details (which are often long and complicated) before they can attempt to help you. It would be way more efficient to be allocated a case worker who knew about your personal case.

At some point, not sure if it was 2016 I agreed with the father that he would pay £60 weekly for the children. I contacted the CMS yet again to report this and say that, if the father was really earning less than £7 per week, he would be unable to make this weekly payment and urged them to investigate. However, I was advised to take that money (as £60 per week was better than nothing) as it would be impossible to get anywhere with an investigation.

I must add that the father did not consistently pay the money, he is manipulative and used such payments as a tool to keep some control over our relationship.

Fast-forward to 2019, when as the result of yet another conflict with the father, I decided to go and see my local MP, Keir Starmer. Keir Starmer’s office sent a letter to the CMS and only then, the CMS started an investigation on my child’s father financial situation.

This was a good outcome, but also infuriating as it took and MP’s letter to get the CMS to do something. Obviously, my many requests to do the same over the years were not deemed as important!

The investigation of the DwP on the father’s finances found that his annual income was around £150K and that for 2019 and 2020 he owed me over £40k in missed maintenance payments.

I contacted the CMS and said that if he owed me that much for just 2 years, he owed me even more for the years from 2014 to 2019. However, I was told that as I had accepted a weekly payment of £60 from the father for those years, I could not claim anything else.

I was outraged, as I was advised by the CMS (see above) to accept that weekly payment in the first place!

I need to add that as a consequence of the investigation, the father has changed the nature of his business, he is no longer the Director and has appointed someone else as owner and director of the business.

We are now in 2022, the father is yet to pay anything (as of today he owes me over £66K in arrears). The CMS assured me they are doing anything they can to recoup the money, but I am under no illusion I will ever see it.

I understand why women don’t bother even getting in touch with the CMS. Dealing with the CMS is a source of frustration and leaves you feeling terrible. Not only as single parents we have to deal with the huge burden of singlehandedly caring for children, whilst trying to work and be financially independent. We also have to put up with the unfairness of a system where men (as 90% of single parents are women) can walk away from their responsibilities without being challenged. This is utterly unjust! When is the punishment for these men!

And why should the taxpayer money (in form of benefits and Universal Credits than many single mother have to claim in order to stay afloat) have to cover and subsidized for this injustice? Whilst the fathers spend their earnings as they please???

In my specific case, the father is abusive and controlling, he still makes our life miserable at times, but he has the same rights as I have towards the children, despite not providing for them and being hardly available for them. This system enables abusive men to exercise control through the “rights” they have as a result of their parental responsibility, but are never asked to prove they are “responsible”. The problem is deeply rooted and not only limited to the CMS. In the family court, judges and CAFCASS officers don’t even want to hear about the financial support the father might or might not give to his children. This should be taken in consideration to assess the suitability of a father to be involved in their children’s life.

The system is completely screwed against women.

In the meantime, we hear on the news increasing cases of children living in poverty and nobody seems to care, nobody seems to make the connection that if fathers were responsible for their children, children would be less likely to be poor!

March 2022