Benjamin Stowe talked to LBC’s Andrew Castle on the 2nd March. A summary of his shared views are as follows:
“The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is a rigid, inflexible system that has not worked since its inception in 1993. When it was first introduced, there was a formula for child support removing the Courts’ jurisdiction to deal with these disputes and instead shifting the burden to the State. Problems arose because the formula was so complicated that two people would arrive at different figures. The system struggled on and on into new guises but adopting the same methodology of a formula-based approach. Over that period of time non-compliance has been rife and nearly £2.5 billion of Child Support Agency ‘legacy debt’ is owed to parents, representing approximately 970,000 individual cases. Of this, the DWP estimate as much as £1.9 billion will be written off.
The CMS should be scrapped and where parents are unable to agree on the level of child maintenance payable, the matter should be referred to the Courts to be dealt with in the same manner as spousal periodical payments. The problem with this, of course, is the Family Courts are already under funded and over-burdened following deep legal aid cuts and dozens of county court closures up and down the country. To add to the already bulging list of issues – child maintenance – as things are at present, would be too much. The issues parents are having with the CMS is an indicator of a broken Court system that needs to be fixed. The Courts need proper funding and there must be the reintroduction of legal aid in family cases to ensure that the Courts are able to deal with issues of child maintenance arrears and enforcement. The CMS is simply not qualified or capable of entering into a forensic enquiry as to the payor’s income and earnings. The loopholes in the current system are too easily used by those who are avoiding child maintenance payments. The only adequate arena to seek enforcement is the Courts.
In discussion with Andrew about the flaws and failings of the CMS, we both acknowledged that some responsibility must fall to the parents. The level of non-compliance and arrears is an unhappy reflection of parents in this country – those who are refusing the accept and acknowledge their financial responsibilities to their children.”