A legal case challenging the “persistent failure” of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to take “proper or effective steps” to recover maintenance payments from absent parents has been given the green light to go ahead to a full judicial review hearing.
The claimants in the case – single parents who complain of persistent inefficiencies in the system and of delays in investigation and enforcement against non-resident parents – argue that the significant problems with the CMS are causing them “significant and prolonged financial difficulties” and “pushing them into poverty”.
They therefore argue that a systemic review is required, as is effective enforcement against non-resident parents.
Single parenting charity Gingerbread, which has provided evidence for the litigation, now intends to apply to intervene in the case to provide additional information to the court.
“Day in, day out, we hear from single parents who are being seriously let down by the system,” said the charity, adding:
“They tell us that they are owed thousands of pounds from their child’s other parent and that all too often the CMS is failing to put enforcement action in place to recover it.”
They added that evidence suggests 36% of children covered by Collect and Pay arrangements are not receiving a penny of the maintenance they are legally entitled to, meaning since 2012, when the CMS began, £512.6 million in unpaid maintenance has accumulated.
It’s said that if child maintenance was paid in full to all children in separated families living in poverty who currently do not receive financial support from their other parent, it would have the potential to lift 60% of them out of poverty.
After permission for the judicial review case was initially refused, a High Court Judge granted permission for the case to proceed. Gingerbread wrote to the court ahead of the recent hearing offering updated information about the continuing flaws in the CMS system. As a result of the court’s decision to grant permission for judicial review, the court will now consider the lawfulness of how CMS is currently operating.