Failed system

October 9, 2023

“I have been paying Child Maintenance Service (CMS) for over 20 years. Initially, it was for three children, but now it’s only for one. My son left education when he was 12 years old because his mother lacked the motivation to guide him, allowing him to do as he pleased. As a non-residential father, I continuously contacted the education department for many years, trying to keep him enrolled in some form of education. Unfortunately, my efforts were unsuccessful as he simply had no interest.

As soon as he turned 16 and his mother realized her benefits would stop, she had him sent to CAMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), where he was diagnosed with severe anxiety. As his father, I can confirm that this diagnosis is not accurate. At 11 years old, he told me that he had no intention of working and planned to rely on state benefits. I tried providing feedback to CAMS but was dismissed since he was over 16, which enabled his mother to receive disability benefits. To add to this, he randomly developed an inability to walk more than one meter, resulting in the primary care (PWC) receiving a free car.

When my son turned 16, I contacted the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to stop child support payments since he was no longer in education. However, I was informed that I had to wait until September of that year for it to happen automatically. September came and went, and I received a rejection because he was still receiving child benefit. I enrolled a solicitor and wrote to my Member of Parliament (MP), and alongside that, I appealed the CMS decision. Unfortunately, I failed on all accounts. The Child Benefit office refused to discuss the case with me or the solicitor since I was not the receiving parent. Additionally, no department could provide me with information about his supposed education or college, despite the education department confirming in writing that he was not in education.

It took me over a year to get answers. Eventually, CMS conducted a review and contacted the primary custodian. CMS stated that she was providing education at home, but she couldn’t provide any evidence to support that claim. Home education is allowed for children under 16, but the education authority had previously determined that she was unfit to home-school him. She managed to obtain doctor’s notes to extend his child benefit by one year, taking him to 17. Now, conveniently when the maximum extension for child benefit was reached, he suddenly decides to enrol in a course. He has no qualifications, but he will receive CMS support for an additional two years since child benefit won’t verify education once it has started.

While CMS is a good concept, I have personally experienced a situation where my father never paid child support and got away with it. Now, it seems to have swung to the other extreme and can be detrimental to the non-residential parent. In summary, once you’re entangled in this system, it’s difficult to break free.”

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