The Government are going ahead with their plans to charge parents who need to claim child maintenance. This is despite an in-depth ‘consultation’ and letters, phone calls and emails from me and many others. They think that this will “strengthen families”, that feuding couples will be more likely to “choose” to come to an amicable agreement about the costs of raising their children.
Perhaps that is possible in some cases. Cases where the split was mutual, where there was a family home, where the absent parent has love and time for their kids. But in many cases, the parent is missing, or never took responsibility, never wanted to know. In 97% of one parent families, the absent parent is the father. David Cameron knows that these men exist, because inthis PR piece in the Telegraph on Fathers Day, he berated them. He thinks that ‘runaway dads’ should be named and shamed like drink drivers. Perhaps they could be banned from shagging for nine months too.
What ‘runaway dads’ really need to do is take responsibility for their children. Cameron and co’s logic says that if a parent needs to claim child maintenance to help them with the financial cost of raising their children, they must pay. They want to charge them because they have ‘chosen’ not to arrange it themselves, when that’s impossible. It’s a bit like saying “we’re going to fine everyone who can’t tie their legs in a double knot behind their head” – only more ridiculous and more tragic. Kids from the poorest of families will suffer. Many people who use the CSA do so because they have to, not because they want to.
It’s going to cost a hundred pounds to apply to the Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission (the new CSA.) Who has that to spare when they’ve just been left holding a baby or putting an older child through school? Statutory maternity pay is little over a hundred pounds a week and there’s always going to be something, whether it’s a pram or school shoes, that that money is needed for. Are the Government looking at the reality for thousands of single parents? If the absent parent knows the system and is elusive enough, the parent with care might as well chuck that hundred quid out with the dirty nappies and save themselves a lot of stress. If CMEC do manage to collect child maintenance, they’ll knock off some commission: 7-12%. All of this is going to put an awful lot of parents whose children really need child maintenance off ever applying in the first place.
David Cameron thinks we “need to make Britain a genuinely hostile place for fathers who go AWOL.” These charges will make it a hostile place for the mothers who are raising their children. And ultimately and frighteningly, for the children themselves.
Gingerbread have joined force with Barnardos to try to get the government to drop the charging system. Click here to find out more, or write to your MP. I’m trying not to be apathetic and hoping we can really make them see sense on this.