CMS0027

 

Written evidence submitted by anonymously

 

 

I am writing to give my opinion on both the Child Maintenance and Child Support Agency. My impression is not a positive one.

 

We have two children, born 2004 and 2007. I am the Father. We separated in 2008 and had 50:50 shared care mandated in 2009. I will say that shared care is absolutely the right thing for separated parents and their children. I initially approached the CSA in 2009, prior to the residence order when the children lived with me and my former wife applied sometime after 2009. She was awarded a payment, even though we shared the care of the children equally. I am the higher earner, the children’s Mother reportedly started studying and became a self employed counsellor, reporting revenue of some £2.5K a year, supplemented with benefits, which continues to this day. The basis for the payment was that we held Child Benefit rights for one of the children each, therefore making each of us as the “resident parent” in the eyes of the CSA. My opinion I that this amplifies hostility between parents at a time where they do not need any help in this area. I do not need Child Benefit payments and have to complete a tax return, repaying most of the money just so that I am not disadvantaged in this regard. It is madness.

 

The CSA took several thousand pounds and gave it to the other parent, even though the children moved equally between the two homes. They eventually made a ruling against the Mother in c. 2010. In moving from the CSA to CMA, the payments were eventually stopped between the two parents (not at the same time, so Mum continued to have to make payments for a few months longer than I, which I imagine left a nasty taste). I have paid my balance in full. I may not need all of the money, but I have spent years paying and there is a principal.

 

I estimate that they have successfully passed 7 payments to me during the intervening 12 years. Our son turns 18 on Sunday and is no longer a child. The CMA passed payments of £36.40 per month between June and August 2020 (3 months). There have been no more payments since, despite a deduction from benefits order. The outstanding amount is £2,209. If the CMA were to be successful from April 2022 onwards, taking £36.40 per month to clear the debt then it would take 5(plus) years; our son will be 23 years old.

 

The CMA has the authority to use sanctions, including deductions of earnings or benefit, driving bans, bailiffs and even prison. They do not use any of these. Nobody that I speak with is aware of these actions that are available and they revert back to there being a deduction of benefit order in place,; albeit one that is not working.

 

Communication with the CMA is poor. The online portal is useless (to caveat, when payment has not been received, I’m sure its fine if everything is working well) and can lead to multiple emails saying the same thing, that payment was not received. It is difficult to reach anyone on the telephone (indeed, the telephone number is wrong on some letters). The wait can be 30-45 minutes before getting through. The staff are usually polite, but we have to go through the same information multiple times. There is rarely any continuity of staff. I have had one call handler hang up on me which was particularly annoying after the wait.

 

As you can see, in my experience, the CMA is not fit for purpose when one parent chooses not to engage with them and frustrates payment. The CMA is toothless when it comes to non payment and exists on the goodwill of parents making payments to benefit their children. It can “weaponise” a situation at a time of heightened emotions and this should be avoided.

 

In my experience, I do not believe that the CMA or CSA have been useful for me or my family and have failed in their objectives. They do not offer value for money as they are unable to deliver stable payments for children throughout their childhoods. This is a shame for everone involved.

 

March 2022