The latest government figures show a significant drop in the
number of parents making new applications to the Child Support Agency following
the introduction of fees for using the Agency on 30 June 2014. Figures show that in May 2014 there were
9,700 applications to the Agency but this number significantly dropped to 6,000
in August 2014.
Whilst it is inevitable that the number of new applications
will vary month by month this 38% drop in new applications is no doubt linked
with parents wishing to avoid paying fees to the Child Support Agency. The fees involve a £20 application fee and
then an ongoing collection charge of 20% of the child support liability for the
non-resident parent (NRP) and a charge of 4% of the liability for the parent
with care (PWC) of the children.
The intention behind the introduction of charging fees for
using the Agency is, as the government says, to try to encourage parents to “collaborate”
and enter into a private agreement for the payment of child support, which does
not involve the Agency.
If the parents in the 3,700 “missing” applications for the
month of August have entered into a private agreement for the payment of an
appropriate child support sum then that is fine. The real worry is, however, that a
significant number of these parents may have a poor relationship, following
their separation, with the PWC deciding he/she does not want the aggravation of
having to negotiate a private agreement
with the NRP but, on the other hand, being unable to pay the fees. In these cases, it is, inevitably, the
children who lose out.
Whilst the government’s reason for the policy is as above,
there are many who believe that one of the principal objectives behind the
introduction of charging fees for using the Agency is to reduce the cost of
operating the Agency by reducing the number of cases that it has to deal
with. In addition to reducing costs, revenue
will of course be raised by those who really have no option other than to use
As matters stand it is, quite clearly, very early days in
the new charging regime but if statistics of this nature continue to be released,
then there will be real concern as to whether the children in these cases are
receiving child support or whether they have, in effect, been kicked into the