Charities critical of child support reform

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Organisations fear changes could put vulnerable youngsters at risk

CHARITIES working with youngsters around Sheffield have raised concerns at government plans to scrap the Child Support Agency and replace it with a ‘new, simpler and more efficient’ service.

Barnardo’s and Gingerbread are warning that up to 7,380 children receiving payments through the existing agency could have their well-being put at risk.

The new arrangements could involve parents being charged for using its replacement.

The Government believes many separated parents could agree child maintenance payments amicably without need for intervention.

But over the last year, the Child Support Agency or CSA delivered a total of £8,743,000 to children in separated families.

Fiona Weir, Gingerbread’s chief executive, said: “The Government says it wants to help separated families but charges would rip money away from families who can’t manage without it.

“The Government must drop the charging plan to give all children a fair chance of decent support from both parents after separation.”

Neera Sharma, Barnardo’s assistant director of policy and research, added: “Small amounts of money make a big difference to families living below the breadline. Barnardo’s is calling for the Government to abandon its proposals to charge fees to families living on low incomes.”

The House of Lords will debate the Government’s child maintenance plans when the Welfare Reform Bill has its second reading in September.

Gingerbread is calling on Peers to press for the proposed future charges to be dropped.

The Government said that while the CSA handled almost £105 million of maintenance payments in the Yorkshire and Humberside region over the 12 months to July, many parents were still failing to make payments for their children on time.

Maria Miller, Work and Pensions Minister, said: “Most separated parents want to support their children without interference from the state.

“Our reforms will help and reward parents who make collaborative, family-based arrangements and free-up the state service to chase those who do not meet their financial responsibility to their children.”

■ Separated parents who want to make their own family-based arrangements can access advice by visiting www.cmoptions.org or calling 0800 988 0988.

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