Child support agency urged to rethink fees18th May 2012
A group of MPs have called on the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) to reconsider its strategy to charge parents a fee for applying for financial support.
The plan initially came as part of the organisation’s deficit-reducing measures. Around £3.7 billion in maintenance is owed from absent parents but the Commission believes it can only obtain £1 billion.
Politicians in the Public Accounts Committee have branded the move to charge fees “high risk”. They predict it will be hard to gauge parents’ and guardians’ reactions to the prospect of being billed up to £100 in application costs when they already do not have much faith in the system.
Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: “I am concerned that the Commission’s cost reduction plans seem to rely heavily on charging parents to use its services. The Commission must ensure that the introduction of fees does not end up making child poverty worse.
“Many parents are frustrated at the lack of support they are receiving, too often not being paid the right amount of money or any at all. It beggars belief that outstanding payments total some £3.7 billion but only £1 billion of that is considered collectible and less than half of that can be collected cost-effectively.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said they are grateful for the Committee’s report and will “carefully consider” its findings before they issue a response.