Not all Parents with Care (PWC), or Receiving Parents as they are known under Child Maintenance Service are fortunate enough to have ex partners that willingly pay child maintenance. Although the Child Support Agency was created to secure maintenance for such parents, the sad reality is that PWCs are often left without the financial support that was promised by Government. Difficulties often occur with securing regular child maintenance, and enforcing child support arrears.
The following are some basic principles that a PWC should consider when dealing with the Agency.
Contacting the Agency:
- Always keep a record of all communication you have with the Agency, in particular secure details of the case officer and if possible their direct telephone number.
- If you write to them, be sure to send letters recorded delivery and keep copies of the letter together with the postage receipt.
- Do not allow too much time to pass in between contacts with the Agency. Aim to be calling them every few weeks for a progress report.
- If your caseworker is not providing sufficient responses to you, be prepared to escalate the query through the complaints process. This starts with Complaints Resolution Team, based at the centre dealing with your case.
- Using the complaints process may be particularly necessary if your case has been deemed a clerical case.
- Involving your MP is always worthwhile when contacting the Agency for any prolonged period.
Securing Regular Maintenance:
- Be sure to take a copy of your original Maintenance Application Form, and we would advise that you contact the Agency approximately 1 week after sending the form to confirm receipt. Ask them to record on their Freetext that you have called to confirm receipt of your application form. We recommend returning your form by recorded or registered post
- The NRP only becomes liable to pay maintenance from the date that CSA establishes contact, so it is important to contact the caseworker to prevent any delay in them contacting the NRP.
- If CSA have to trace the whereabouts of the NRP, this will cause delays in securing maintenance payments. Be prepared to give CSA as much information as possible to enable them to contact the NRP at the earliest opportunity.
- Once contact has been established, the NRP will be required to supply relevant information regarding his income and details of any children living with them. Calculation of maintenance should take a few weeks, so again be sure to keep regular contact for progress reports.
- Once calculated, you should receive notification of the maintenance due, and the information that has been used to calculate the liability. If you dispute any of the information used, you need the consider appealing the decision, which has to be lodged within one month of the decision being notified.
- As from 27th October 2008, a PWC is free to make a private arrangement with the NRP even if in receipt of benefit. From 12th April 2010, the PWC is entitled to receive ALL maintenance payments without any benefits being affected. CS3 will promote direct pay arrangements between PWC and NRP.
Variations Scheme (or Departures):
- If you believe the NRP has misled CSA in relation to his earnings you may want to consider the variation scheme (or departures for CS1 cases)
- Variations can look at other aspects of the NRPs financial status that are not automatically considered within the formula. A variation may result in a Tribunal hearing to finalise the decision made.
- The use of Variation scheme is particularly important if the NRP is likely to be receiving Dividends in addition to his actual earnings, or is guilty of Diverting Income, or has a Lifestyle that is Inconsistent with the income level declared.
- It’s important to ensure that any alleged debt is accurate. Do not accept verbal statements regarding debts, always request a full arrears breakdown to explain how the debt has been calculated.
- Do not budget or expect to receive any stated amount of arrears. Not only is there potential for those arrears to change if the NRP successfully proves they have been miscalculated, but despite all enforcement powers the end result may still be little or no payment. Under new proposals, enforcement of historical debt will no longer be a priority.
- Ideally, CSA should commence recovery of maintenance and arrears as soon as a payments has been missed, but this often does not happen. As soon as a maintenance payment is missed, you should contact your caseworker and keep in regular contact to request updates on the enforcement actions planned.
- CSA can use a range of powers, including deducting money from salaries and money direct from bank accounts. They also have powers to take cases to court which can result in bailiff’s being instructed, and in some cases the forced sale of a property, and possible imprisonment or removal of driving license.
- When an NRP is difficult to deal with, CSA may divert its attention to easier targets and give insufficient attention to your case, and little or no activity to improve the situation for you. Regular contact will limit this happening to you.
Becoming a subscriber to NACSA will allow you to discuss your case with one of our team and to secure more case specific guidance to help you secure answers that CSA may not be willing to provide to you.