- CSA – Child Support Agency
- CMS – Child Maintenance Service
- PWC – Parent with Care
- NRP – Non Resident Parent
The Child Support Agency stopped taking on new cases from November 2013 and is to be abolished completely by 2017. It is being replaced by the Child Maintenance Service; like the CSA, the CMS is administered by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. It is effectively a re-branding exercise due to the bad reputation of the CSA.
The CSA calculation is based on net income, the NRP is required to pay child maintenance as follows:-
- 15% – 1 child
- 20% – 2 children
- 25% – 3 children or more
For assessments under the CSA scheme and the new CMS scheme the amount of maintenance is reduced if the child stays over night with the NRP for one night or more each week.
The main difference is between the way the CMS and CSA calculate child maintenance. The most notable one being that the calculation is based on gross income and financial information is taken direct from HMRC, rather than relying on information provided by the NRP.
For gross income of up to £800 per week, the calculation is:-
- 12% – 1 child
- 16% – 2 children
- 19% – 3 children or more
For income between £800 and £3000 per week, the NRP is required to pay:-
- 9% – 1 child
- 12% – 2 children
- 15% – 3 children or more
In reality, the actual amounts are unlikely to change the amounts by very much.
All parents who are currently using the CSA to collect child maintenance will receive a letter within the next three years to inform them that their cases are being closed. As with all new cases they will be directed to the child maintenance options service which encourages parents to make their own voluntary ‘Family Based Arrangements’; the website address is www.cmoptions.org.uk
For separated parents who can make their own arrangements, this is a sensible way forward and very much in tune with the Government’s ‘hands off’ approach to encourage individual responsibility.
If a PWC is forced to use the CMS because the NRP refuses to pay, there will be charges levied. Initially there will be a £20 fee just for the CMS to calculate child maintenance. If the NRP still does not agree to pay voluntarily, they will have to pay an extra 20% for the CMS to act as a collection agency and the PWC will have to forego 4% of the maintenance money.
Although this will not make the CMS self-funding, it will go somewhere to reduce the enormous administration costs the CSA has incurred since it came into existence in 1993.
The problem with charges is that it is the children who will ultimately suffer. This is particularly the case where the NRP refuses to pay and the PWC is on a low income and already struggling financially.