Select Committee on Work and Pensions Fourth Report

Appendix 1

"The following questions have been raised in this white paper.

  • Question 1: Are the key principles and areas for detailed work that we have identified the right ones? In particular:

—  How can we best encourage access to support services by parents with care and non-resident parents?

—  How can we best make a register of private maintenance agreements an attractive prospect to parents?

—  How can Jobcentre Plus most effectively encourage parents claiming benefit to make an informed choice about maintenance?

  • Question 2:

C-MEC will contribute to wider departmental and Government objectives, in particular our ambition to abolish child poverty by 2020. It will operate within a framework of objectives and principles, which will be set out in legislation. This will aim to ensure that C-MEC:

  • Is focused on helping parents meet their financial responsibility to their children, thereby helping to reduce child poverty and improve the welfare of children;
  • Encourages and empowers parents in their role and, where necessary, requires them to meet their obligations; and
  • Ensures the delivery of a high-quality and efficient service through its commissioning role.

This paragraph sets out what we hope to achieve through a framework of objectives and principles for the new body: do you think these three aims are appropriate?

  • Question 3:

The principles guiding the approach to transition will be to:

  • Ensure that the transition to the new regime is driven by child poverty considerations - focusing on support for the poorest families first;
  • Meet parents needs by empowering them to make informed choices and fulfil their responsibilities;
  • Minimise disruption for parents through clear and effective communication and provide a seamless service for the move to the new regime; and
  • Ensure that the approach is practical and achievable - learning from past experience by reducing the complexity that stalled the implementation of previous reforms.

Do the principles for moving forward set out in this paragraph, provide the right approach?

  • Question 4: Is our approach of combining a simpler assessment formula with an exceptions regime the right one?
  • Question 5: Which of the three approaches outlined in the paragraphs below should be employed to determine child maintenance liabilities in a case of this kind?

The simplest method would be for the assessment to take no account of children supported under alternative arrangements. This would make the assessment easier for parents to understand. But it might impose an unfair burden on a non-resident parent, who may not be able to pay all the child maintenance. It may be more appropriate for the new scheme to recognise additional children for whom the non-resident parent is liable.

This could be achieved in one of two ways. One approach would be to deduct from the income used to work out their liability the amount that the non-resident parent is paying in private arrangement or under a court order. However, the method used by the parents to arrive at the amount agreed under a private agreement could be different from that used to assess child maintenance.

The other way could be to count all children supported by a non-resident-parent, whether under the child maintenance scheme or under other arrangements, in some form of overall assessment. The liability calculated for all the children would then be apportioned either directly, according to the number of children with each parent with care, or using an alternative formula. For any parent with care who had applied for child maintenance, this proportion would represent the amount of child maintenance due to them. For the remaining parents with care, the amounts would be purely notional - any amounts agreed by the parents under private arrangements could continue to apply.

  • Question 6: Are there other approaches to enforcement that we should consider?
  • Question 7: Is the shift from a predominantly court-based enforcement system to an administrative approach the right way to make enforcement more effective?
  • Question 8: Are we right to give more focus to chasing collectable debt?
  • Question 9: Is our approach in seeking write-off powers in strictly limited circumstances the right one?"

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