Child row fees could hit single parents

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WARNINGS HAVE been sounded over the risk to parents from new Government child maintenance charges.

Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions are introducing a £20 application fee and a 20% collection charge for parents using its officials to agree child care payment details after a separation.

The Government hopes this will encourage some 250,000 cases to reach their own maintenance arrangements.

But a new report out by the influential Public Accounts Committee today says many parents could be put off claiming help and instead left with no maintenance arrangements in place.

The Commons committee heard evidence from single parents charity Gingerbread that the Department had been “unrealistic about the number of parents who would be able to reach their own private arrangements that last.”

The DWP project, which was due to start in June 2014 and is only being introduced, involves the introduction of charges for parents using the statutory service based on a £20 application fee, a 20% collection fee for paying parents, and a 4% fee deducted from maintenance paid to receiving parents.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the committee, said there “is a worrying uncertainty” around the changes.

The MP added: “Research suggests that for parents on low incomes the £20 application fee would be a significant barrier to applying to the statutory service.

“There is a risk that some parents end up reaching no arrangement at all, to the detriment of the children involved.”

Child Maintenance Minister Steve Webb said: “This report clearly recognises the progress we’ve made in making child maintenance simpler. The old CSA system was massively costly yet saw thousands of children get no regular financial support. The new service we’re introducing provides better support for parents and gets more money to more children.”