Stop tax on child support for domestic violence victim-survivors

Angela Crawley MP has joined together with Scottish women’s organisations to call on the Prime Minister to scrap the “cruel and callous tax on child support” for victim-survivors of domestic violence.

The Child Support Agency – which processes child maintenance payments between parents – recently closed down and was replaced by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).  Changes to how the service operates means that the parent caring for the children will either be charged a 4% collection fee (for administrative costs) for using the service or must give their bank details to the other parent directly in what is known as a “family-based” arrangement.

Survivors of domestic abuse have raised concerns about the charges for using the new CMS as in many cases they are too frightened to give their bank details to their abuser for fear that they will be able to access other personal details.

Angela Crawley MP is campaigning against the charges and along with Engender, Scottish Women’s Aid, One Parent Families, Gingerbread and the White Ribbon Campaign has written to the Prime Minister calling for the fees to be scrapped.

Angela Crawley MP, SNP spokesperson for Children, Women and Equalities, said:

“For domestic abuse victim-survivors, organising their own “family-based arrangement” with their former abuser is in most cases impossible to arrange and the only safe way of receiving the financial support they need from the other parent is by using the Child Maintenance Service.

“These unfair charges for the new CMS will disproportionately impact survivors of domestic abuse who feel they have no option but to use the service as they are too frightened to have a direct link to their abuser.

“I am very concerned that this is a cruel and callous tax on child support and that ultimately it is the children who will lose out on money intended to support them. It is the responsibility of the UK Government to do everything in its power to protect children from falling into poverty and I urge the Prime Minister to take action to ensure that maintenance is paid in full and on time.”

Emma Ritch, Executive Director of Engender, said:

“We are extremely concerned that these fees on vital child maintenance payments will act as a barrier to single parents and children in Scotland receiving the support that they need to live full and independent lives.  These charges indirectly discriminate against women and especially those who have been subject to domestic abuse – we support this call from Angela Crawley MP and call on the Prime Minister to immediately scrap the charge.”

Marsha Scott, Scottish Women’s Aid

“It may be a right for women to live free from fear and abuse, but it is far from a reality. Women experiencing domestic abuse face numerous challenges in leaving abusive partners, including being financially dependent. Child maintenance is therefore critical for women’s financial independence, and to ensuring that they are not subject to further abuse that current policy – albeit unwittingly – colludes with. We expect the UK Government to do everything within their power to mitigate this as a matter of urgency.”

Marion Davis, Head of Policy at One Parent Families Scotland

“Single Parents should not  have to pay to apply to the Child Maintenance Service(CMS), nor should they be charged collection fees if the CMS has to step in because the other parent has failed to pay. This is not putting children first. In particular we feel strongly that  victims-survivors of domestic abuse should be exempt from charges  to ensure that child support is paid and that parents and children are not traumatised further by having to make contact with a violent ex-partner. Children in single parent families are already twice as likely to live in poverty as those in couple families – the government should not be putting barriers in the way of children growing up in single parent families getting the support they need and we urge the Prime Minister to support the call from Angela Crawley MP  to drop the charge.”

David Bartlett, White Ribbon Campaign Chief Executive, said:

“The Campaign believes that using the Child Maintenance Service is often the only safe way for victims-survivors of domestic abuse to claim support for their child or children from the other parent.  We call on the Government to put in place a waiver for domestic abuse victim-survivors from the ongoing fees for those using the “Collect and Pay” service, which currently amount to 4% of the maintenance due for the receiving parent.  It is the responsibility of the UK Government to protect children from falling into poverty, and we urge the Government to take steps to ensure that maintenance is paid in full and on time.”