is the % of child maintenance taken from the NRP fair?

December 1, 2013

I would like to know who thinks the % that the CSA use, (for example 20% of net wages  for 2 qualifying children) in their child maintenance calculations is fair? I have asked MP Steve Webb (the MP responsible for the CSA), and Mr Robin Van den Hende (yes his real name, he’s the Child Maintenance Corporate Affairs) these questions:

1. On what grounds did the governing body of the CSA (Child Support Agency)  arrive at the calculations, the % they take from the non resident parent (NRP)?

2. Has the % the CSA require for child maintenance factored in such things as living costs/basic needs of the non resident parent?

3. Why, under ‘variations’ details, does it not allow the NRP to have their own basic living costs taken into account before applying a calculation of child maintenance?

4. How did the Default Maintenance Payment (DMP) amounts become set? On what grounds?
5. Why isn’t the parent with care (PWC) income taken into account when making a calculation for child maintenance?
6. Why does the CSA encourage less shared care?

7. If a PWC refuses access, without any grounds (such as violence/other abuse) in which to do so, other than to spite the NRP, then why isn’t the child maintenance suspended? Surely if the PWC wishes to bring up their child/ren without any input from the NRP, and refuses them contact, they should not be allowed to use the NRP as a cash machine?!

Could YOU afford to have 20% of YOUR salary taken from you, (for example for 2 qualifying children)? If you were on an ‘average’ wage? In these times of financial hardship, cost of living rises etc. How would you survive?

However, IF you were allowed a ‘basic cost of living allowance’ to be taken into account BEFORE child maintenance was calculated, wouldn’t YOU think that was fairer?

A fair calculation would be for example:

PWC earns ££
INCLUDING Child Tax Credits, £ equivalent in childcare vouchers, Working Tax Credits, Child Benefit, Housing benefit, Council Tax Benefit.

NRP earns ££
INCLUDING any benefits if applicable.

How much food/heating/housing/clothing/school costs are needed per child per year (Government must have those ‘average’ figures! They seem to know how much on average it is to raise a child from 0 – 18) ££

Divide the costs of children into 2 IF both parents income is the same, and have a % scale for whether the ££ is more on one parents side than the other. Very often the NRP will have LESS income than the PWC, even if the PWC is working less hours, on less hourly pay. Due to the fact the PWC gets their income ‘boosted’ by benefits (like those listed above).

If the child maintenance system was fairer, and clearer (as suggested above) then the CSA’s job would be easier, the PWC and NRP would know where they stand, they would understand the reasoning behind the calculations and there would be wider acceptance and less avoidance!

Personally, I cannot see how it is justified if 20% (for example for 2 children) is taken WITHOUT FIRST allowing for the NRP to pay for their OWN food/housing/utilities/clothing. Even in the case of for example a CCJ (County Court Judgement), the person’s cost of living expenses are taken into account BEFORE a payment schedule is set up! A destitute NRP is not a good example to set to a child. It will impact on what treats the NRP can give the child, if they can’t afford to do anything or buy them any presents (birthday/Christmas) then that is not benefiting the child, or the relationship between the NRP, the PWC and the child.

Interesting to see what responses I get. I have been given replies so far stating they will respond to my questions within 15 working days!

 

Comments

  • Marcus Lasance says:

    Leaving aside my agreement that it would seem pointless for the state to push one NRP into poverty for every PWC they lift out of poverty, two questions nevertheless come to mind about the soundness of your reasoning Victoria.

    1 Why should PWC assessed income include Child Tax Credits, £ equivalent in childcare vouchers, Working Tax Credits, Child Benefit, Housing benefit, Council Tax Benefits, all paid for by the UK tax payers?

    I thought the whole reason for creating the CSA was that too many feckless fathers and a few mothers just assumed the state would fill the financial void of them leaving their family, by stepping in with Child Tax Credits, £ equivalent in childcare vouchers, Working Tax Credits, Child Benefit, Housing benefit, Council Tax Benefit etc.

    2 You did not say this but are you implying that if the PWC has a new partner who has a good income this should also reduce the amount the NRP should pay?

    To me morally it’s even more wrong to put the financial burden of bringing up the NRPs children on the shoulders of someone who had no part in bringing them in this world. So if it’s morally wrong to offload the burden onto the taxpayer, it stands to reason it is even more wrong to expect the PWC’s new partner to pick up the tab.

    Finally if paying the Child Support charges brings the NRP’s new family ( if they should choose to start another one) under certain income thresholds, surely they can then apply for the same benefits and tax credits as they would have the PWC live off? Am I missing something here?

  • Mrs Beckham 2 says:

    Hello Marcus, thank you for your post.
    My feeling is if the CSA assess ‘all income’ from the NRP, then it is only fair that the CSA also assess ‘all income’ from the PWC. If the understanding is that BOTH parents are equally responsible financially, then this is the fairest way.

    I will give you an example, a PWC works 30 hrs a week on a meagre salary. That PWC will get ‘top up’ income from CTC and WTC, which would bring their income up to quite a bit more that they have to contribute towards the costs of bringing up the children. So why shouldn’t the PWC whole income inc CTC and WTC be counted?? After all it’s all money in the PWC’s hands so to speak.

    I just think it’s unfair and unequal for the CSA to just use a ‘set %’ of the NRP’s income per child, to give child maintenance to the PWC without even first allowing for the NRP’s basic and essential living costs such as rent/mortgage, utility bills, food.

    I don’t agree that NRP or PWC new partner’s income is assessed, for the very reasons you have given, I totally agree, the financial responsibility is for the parents of the children not partners of.

  • jo says:

    Marcus your missing the point if an nrp has a 2nd family then any tax credits is used in csa calculations….is that fair when a pwc has full entitlement to theirs, wouldn’t that mean that an nrp’s new partner/family is contributing in something they had no involvement in?

    It should be about fairness on both sides.

  • Ellie Milao says:

    Totally agree Jo, my husbands son is not my child, yet CSA take 15% of my child tax credit. So Marcus is that fair. I’m all for my husband paying for his son but I do not agree they take my children tax credits or my share of working tax credit into account. I don’t understand why you Marcus are all for the CSA screwing over the NRP and their 2nd families!!

  • Marcus Lasance says:

    Hi Mrs Beckham and also Jo for your clarifications. I have always understood that things like tax credits are like safety nets. If the NRP has a good income and the CSA makes him/her pay for his/her kids and in that way lifts the PWC out of poverty that is in a way achieving justice and saving the public purse.

    If however in doing that the CSA pushes the NRP’s family into poverty they achieve no such saving as what they take with one hand they have to give back with the other.

    I don’t need convincing that the CSAs methods are unfair. I like your idea of NRP being allowed a ‘basic cost of living allowance’ . I would go a step further that things like cost of travel to work for the NRP should also be taken into account, which it seems the CSA currently do not. But I think benefits like tax credits are a red herring. Also what you called ‘OWN food/housing/utilities/clothing ‘ should not feature in the calculations as it would just encourage women haters like GONK to live in a house he doesn’t need/cant afford just so he can avoid his responsibilities toward his kids although they themselves prefer calling it ‘propping up the ex’s lifestyle’ and forget its for their kids.

  • Ellie Milao says:

    Marcus its the NRP job to partly pay for their child as it is just as much the PWc. However it is not the NRPs responsibility to bring the PWC out of poverty. I understand you don’t agree with people Getting CT and WT but it happens. So why is it fair to bring PWC out of poverty to put NRP and NRPs with 2nd families into poverty. People like me loose 15% of CT and WT for for PWC who is already in receipt of these benefits. CSA are taking from 1 child to give to another what they already receive. So its ok For the NRP 2nd familes children to be put into poverty so long as the PWC is taken out of poverty!!!

  • Marcus Lasance says:

    Ellie, if you read what I said more carefully You will notice I totally agree with you. It is the NRPs responsibility to bring the PWC out of poverty if he/she can afford to. And everyone is entitled to Tax credits if they qualify for them. It’s the law! But they are meant to support a family so if that family splits up it’s not meant to double the cost to the state.

  • jo says:

    It’s not the NRP’s responsibility to lift the pwc out of poverty at all, their contribution is to the child(ren)….I’m sorry but pwc’s also need to take responsibility for their own lives which many do and I find it insulting that you think so 1950’s!!

    You’re also saying that because families do break up, that basically if you read between the lines an nrp should not expect the state to pick up the bill? What if its not the nrp who broke up the family unit, god forbid if a pwc initiated the split….why should the nrp be made to suffer at the actions of another?

    Also in my situation where domestic violenceswas involved, should I have stayed with a violent drunk just to save the public purse, even though I worked to make sure I didn’t claim income support…there lies my responsibility also for my children without the help of the nrp!!

  • Ellie Milao says:

    Point taken Marcus. But again its as though your implying that the child tax credits and my share of the working tax credits should be used to fund a child that is not mine? CSA are taking my childrens money away from them to pay for their half brother. The mother receives her own full amount of child tax credit for her son to my husband its not like he sees any of it because his son does not live with us.. Like I said I agree my husband should pay has he always has even before CSA involvement. This is a woman who is 33 and she never worked a day In her life, when DWA put pressure on her to get a job she opens her legs to produce another child so she doesn’t have to work and has 5 children to different men. She upped n left my husband whilst pregnant with his son to the over end of the country. So I pay for this woman twice. 1ce to pay all her benefits out of tax taken from my wages and then again from my CT and WT, where is the justice in that!!!

  • Mrs Beckham 2 says:

    Hi all, thank you for your comments. I have had a response from DWP – who are the ones who wrote the policy!! SEE RESPONSE BELOW:

    “It would appear that you disagree with the fundamental principles of the child maintenance system in this country. I am sorry you find it unfair – the system is there to support a broad range of clients, and so it is difficult to satisfy everyone.

    You disagree that the needs of children should come before the needs of non-resident parents. It is a fundamental principle of our child maintenance system that children should come first. As I have explained, we do not take a non-resident parent’s living costs into account before calculating their child maintenance liability. The amount of child maintenance that a non-resident parent is liable to pay is based on research showing the proportion of their income a parent would normally spend on their child if they lived with them. This gives the non-resident parent the freedom to decide how to adjust their spending in the light of their obligation to their child, as they would do if they lived with them.

    The Agency is satisfied that, although the statutory rates only represent around half of typical family expenditure on children, they strike the right balance between the needs of the child and the other expenses that non-resident parents have to meet. They leave non-resident parents with the bulk of their income (at least 75 per cent where there are no arrears of maintenance owed) to meet their other responsibilities. There are no plans to change the system so that a parent’s living costs are considered before the responsibility they have to financially support their children.

    I can confirm the statutory child maintenance scheme is compliant with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998. The legislation that established the 2003 statutory child maintenance scheme is the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000. The Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions made a statement of compatibility with the provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights during the passage of the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill 1999. A copy of the statement is available on the Parliament website and can be accessed at:

    http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm199900/cmbills/009/2000009.htm

    What do you all think of that???????????
    I think they just think it’s ok because of what they say their calculations are based on, but they are missing the point of affordability!! Just because someone has a net income of £400 (for example) a week doesn’t mean they can survive on 20% less and still pay their bills!!

    Just for an example net income £400 p/w LESS ‘average’ weekly Housing costs of £150, Food £70, Utilities £40, Council tax £45 that leaves the NRP with £95 a week….so that’s WITHOUT petrol, car insurance to enable them to get to/from work….yet the CSA would take £80 a week…
    HOW IS THAT FAIR????

  • Marcus Lasance says:

    There is some very good points being made in this discussion. The CSA response to Mrs Beckham’s question pretty much confirms what I said. However that does not make the way the CSA operate lawful and just, as too many times they get their assumptions and calculations wrong. When they determine someone’s income, they should take into account what expenses that person has to make to achieve that income. Travel costs are often a significant part. So can be childcare for the PWC. There should be an allowance for the NRP to travel and see his kids. Can’t be that hard to determine. If CSAHell organised a petition along those lines, I am sure they would get massive support. But things like NRPs housing costs, any Hire purchases or debts. They will be seen by most as lifestyle choices, so they are harder to argue.

    Jo touches however on another point that is seldom raised on this forum. What were the reasons for the parents splitting up in the first place. Although I think we all agree the CSA has no right to meddle in such personal affairs it can make their incompetence feel like adding insult to injury.

  • It’s interesting you say that Marcus because we are going to do just that soon – we’re just building the audience first, via web and social, because any official petition requires 100,000 signatures before it will be debated. We want to make sure we’re in a strong enough position to get everyone pulling in the same direction before we do this.

    Just to be clear, we don’t need 100,000 Facebook likes, or Twitter followers, or visitors per day to this website, we just need to be able to reach 100,000 people – and we get closer to that each day.

    We aim to make changes – we just need a little more time before we can put the plan into action.

  • poppydonuts says:

    I am a PWC. My experience of the CSA is that they heavily prioritise the NRP and his new family. For 8 years I have had to put up with Nil Assessments and £20 pmth contributions towards a large accrued debt.
    Even today I have been informed that the CSA have yet again compromised my children, by striking a ‘deal’ with my ex husband which bears no relation at all to a realistic figure given the history, wage and amount of debt that we are owed.
    Since the CSA now take an ‘anything is better than nothing’ approach they fail to realise the true impact of offloading practically entire financial responsibilty to the PWC and my feelings are that the NRP are heavily protected and supported by the CSA.
    I do not believe based on my experience that ‘percentage’ is the correct approach, and would much rather see child support based upon the ‘true’ cost of what raising and supporting children actually is. Then simply divide it by 50% each.
    estimate a reasonable amount for food. Clothes, school dinners, uniforms, school trips etc…..can all be accounted for by receipts and so on and perhaps treats too.

    Certainly in my case this would work far better for us as the CSA have never EVER worked for us in any realistic sense at all, and display no equality towards my children and seem to promote financial inequality between siblings which can never be a happy way forward for anyone parties concerned.

  • Mrs Beckham 2 says:

    Thank you all for your comments and feedback. Michael I would def be in the Q to sign any petition!!
    @ poppydonuts I am so sorry you have been through the mill in your CSA nightmare. I had a bad experience myself as a PWC, my ex stopped contributing as he said he had no ££, so I went to the CSA – so he told our kids if one of them didn’t move in with him he would lose his flat!! So by having one child living with him, I was then liable to pay him,…nice one huh!! Never wanted to have them much after we separated, yet as soon as the CSA assessed him that’s how he carried on. And no, I never once stopped him having them, despite our difference, he’s still their Dad…it’s up to them to form their own opinion! So I can empathise and understand your issues with the CSA. I totally agree with the 50%, but after allowing the NRP expenses such as a roof over their head/food/heating and as Marcus said petrol/travel costs to work as without being able to pay to get to work no one benefits! You are also right in that the CSA seem to promote inequality between siblings as well. It’s so wrong!
    @Marcus, as I just said above, I do agree that travel costs should be included.

  • jo says:

    If you say divide it by 50% each then nrp needs to get more support in benefits like the pwc does or reflect circumstances in each parents home and see people as individuals rather than the average cost.

    I speak as an nrp’s wife and a pwc who gets nothing from my ex.

    At the end of the day csa go for easy targets and the pwcs who need the help most gets no help what so ever.

  • Mrs Beckham 2 says:

    Hi Jo,
    Yes I agree with you, though I think the PWC should have the child benefit and W.T/C.T credits UNLESS it’s 50/50 shared care.

    I could have gone to the CSA when my son returned to college in Sept, but I know it’s not worth the agro. So instead I asked him to contribute to college costs such as clothing, travel etc. He agreed, and it was much more amicable. The CSA cause more problems than the actual maintenance is worth to be honest.

  • poppydonuts says:

    @ Mrs Beckham, Jo.
    Just to clarify I mean that LIABILTY should be divided equally.
    It is a constant source of horror to me that LIABILTY can be removed via a NIL assessment based upon income too low to pay of a student status.
    I say LIABILTY remains a constant throughout the children’s childhood.
    The fact that someone is on too low an income is another matter. But I firmly believe that LIABILTY for it should never be removed.
    I base this upon a personal experience. Unfortunately My daughter came across a NIL liability assessment letter in my office and she asked me explain what it meant. After us both being very upset, She felt as though she was worthless and this letter proved that fact.
    We talked about it at length, but both came up with the the conclusion that whist we expect it of her Father, We are hurt by the the government that both her Sister and herself have been written off as nothing. We didn’t expect it of them, equality should play a part in this. They have a right to it.
    This decision had a profound effect on all of us and us realise that in no way does this agency treat us as worthy.
    The fact that potentially he could not pay (again) at that time is irrelevent, a debt should be accrued for that period even if it cannot reasonably be expected to be paid. To Simply write it off as though they never happened is horrific and hugely offensive and unfair both upon them and myself alike.
    Based upon our current circumstances the CSA have chosen to extend a 10yr repayment of debt agreement (no where near 40% recover for us…), not 2yr as they aim for.
    The basis of this is because if they ‘push him too far’ he may leave his job.
    This of course ticks a box for them statistically.
    Keeps him in job.
    Demeans us yet again…Please note the same priority again has not been applied to us.

    Whilst accepting living costs should be acknowledged, I believe at the very least that in a case where debts have accrued, and NIL Liabilities have been applied I think that the protected amount should be removed and subject to the same amount of recovery % applied, for the same period that the NIL assessments have been applied.

    Only that way can the agency address the issue of fairness between two households, and would serve to make the NRP less ‘guilty’ in treating all of the children unfairly.

    All of this is caused by using a percentage of income which is often nothing in comparison to the true cost of bringing up children, which is where the problem lies. Often it is not a fair representation of what the genuine costs are, to base it on a percentage is in most cases madness!

    I would have no problem submitting accounts for my daughters per year as you do to HMRC .

    And another thing.

    Why exactly is there no penalty for failure to report a change of circumstances??
    They are the only government Department I know of who don’t.
    Half of my situation is caused by the CSA only acting upon new information when I can provide it.
    My daughters have lost hundreds of pounds due to them because I don’t happen to know ‘HIS’ financial situation. Despite the duty on his part to keep them informed nothing is imposed on his failure.

    I am constantly in an impossible situation, and my daughters are financially degraded, whilst the agency bend over backwards to protect his job and current new family.

    New repayment timescales are offensively unrealistic and I am angry that some CSA person has negotiated this without even consulting with us. You may think rules are there, but they are not. It comes down to whoever is dealing with it on that day, and their opinion at that time.
    It should not be allowed.

  • poppydonuts says:

    For an example: I currently pay out
    £1.90 x 2 = £3.80
    x 5 days a week = £19.00
    X 38 weeks a year = £722 per year.

    …And that’s just school dinners in respect of 2 children.

  • Marcus Lasance says:

    @poppydonuts. Some very valuable points raised by you: “Why exactly is there no penalty for failure to report a change of circumstances??” It has always been my understanding that once a DEO is in place the NRP has a legal obligation to notify CSA of change in circumstances, like from receving job seekers allowance now back in work. It’s just that the CSA does nothing about it when these laws are blatantly broken. ‘Nil assessment’ also leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The NRP I have had to deal with for 19 years while financially ( and emotionally) supporting my step children sat in our kitchen and with tears in his eyes asked my wifes and my blessing to go back to university’so in a couple of years he could get a better job and start to pull his weight. So we said “If you must, we win’t stop you. Thanks for telling us”‘ . So this turned into a nil assessment. The kids were too young to read anything into that. The insult came when the NRP not only took up the careless student life, but then proceeded to go on a one year gap year sending us picture postcards from exotic beaches. And the useless CSA just closed the case telling us the NRP had emigrated “because he had shown them a one way ticket to New Zealand” . You would not believe the problems I had in reopening the case when I found out he was back working in the UK!

    There are people on this forum who tend to forget that it was dead beats like that that caused the government to create this failing organisation. Onother fine mess they left the rest of us with.

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