The submitter of this evidence has requested that the committee consider treating this evidence as anonymous
My name is **********, and I have had to deal with the CSA / CMS for approximately 15 years.
I would like to submit evidence about my experience with the CMS and the way in which they deal with deduction of earnings orders.
In my case, the paying parent refused to pay maintenance directly, he then cancelled the direct debit set up for collect and pay. Finally, the CMS agreed to put a deduction of earnings order in place after substantial arrears were generated. This all took many, many months to arrange and hours of time spent on the phone explaining my case over and over again.
For 6 months I received regular payments, then I received a letter stating that the way in which the maintenance would be collected had changed. When I queried this, I was told that the paying parent was entitled to ask for the deduction of earnings order to be removed after 6 months. I was not contacted about this or given any warning that it was coming, I was simply informed it was happening. I was told that the paying parent had ‘promised’ to pay the CMS by direct debit via collect and pay. The first month he was supposed to do this, he cancelled the direct debit, and I received no maintenance. After yet more phone calls and stress, the CMS agreed to reinstate the deduction of earnings order, this took 4 months and therefore more arrears built up. I was reassured that as the paying parent had not met his obligations, he would not be able to request the removal of the deduction of earnings order for a year. It was therefore very upsetting to receive another letter 6 months later to say that once again his request for the order to be removed had been accepted and he was going to pay by direct debit. He once again cancelled the direct debit in the first month, so yet again I spent many, many hours on the phone to the CMS to rectify it. The DOE order was reinstated but yet again it took 4 months, thus more arrears.
At the risk of repeating myself, this situation took place 4 more times despite reassurances from the CMS that the paying parent would not be able to request a removal of the order due to his poor track record of paying maintenance. EVERY SINGLE TIME the case worker who authorised the removal of the order ignored the notes on the file.
The amount of stress caused by this situation cannot be explained in words. The trauma cannot be underestimated. I have spent 15 years trying to receive maintenance for my children and all the CMS have done is support the paying parent in avoiding payments. They are not working for the children linked to the case.
In this case the paying parent has subjected me to physical and mental abuse and the actions of the CMS have meant I am forced to have contact with him to try and resolve the issue. The withholding of payment by the paying parent is financial control aided fully by the CMS.
The way in which arrears are collected means that the amount received is so small that it will take years to pay back despite my case with the CMS having ended. This means that I still have a link to an abusive person despite his ability to pay the arrears off much more quickly. There seems to be no good reason why arrears have to be collected so slowly. Additionally, I was encouraged to write off my arrears when my case moved from the CSA to the CMS.
The CMS is not fit for purpose and this organisation have seriously damaged my mental health and wellbeing.