It is a tool for coercive control that can have a significant effect on victim-survivors. It can affect their ability to provide for their children and build economic safety after leaving an abuser.
We believe that urgent changes to the child maintenance system are needed so it better protects victim-survivors from abusers and does not facilitate abuse.
Abuse that takes place post-separation has been recognised in law and made criminal through changes to the controlling or coercive behaviour legislation in England and Wales. The statutory guidance on this law gives several examples of abusive behaviour that relate specifically to child maintenance, including:
By engaging with survivors and sharing their experiences, SEA has influenced vital reforms to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). Our input to the independent review of the CMS response domestic abuse highlighted:
Following the review, the Government supported the following changes that would assist survivors using the service:
SEA worked with Gingerbread, the charity that supports single parent families, to try and raise awareness of and influence two laws that passed through Parliament in 2023.
Together with Gingerbread, SEA is calling for the following further changes to ensure the child maintenance system better supports victim-survivors of economic abuse.
For many survivors, it is too dangerous to arrange payments with the other parent directly. This charge penalises them for using their only safe option for receiving payment.
We are disappointed that the 4% charge imposed on the resident parent when using the Collect and Pay method has not been removed under the new Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act. We urge the Government to remove this unfair charge as a follow up to the new legislation.
Non-payment of child maintenance can send survivors of domestic abuse into poverty. The Government should make minimum payments to survivors if the other parent refuses to pay. These payments can be recovered through enforcement action.
It is vital that staff understand the risks that survivors are facing and provide a safe response.
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