Its No Bed of Roses
#FixTheCMS is a much-needed campaign organised by Gingerbread to safeguard child maintenance payments for 100,000’s children who are being denied the financial support from their non-resident parent. March 23rd brought the country into Lockdown but with it came an and end to many family-based arrangements, informal agreements and even those payments managed by CMS.
CMS claims that whilst no immediate action would be taken against missed payment, it guarantees that no parent will pay or receive the incorrect amount of maintenance, and assures parents that all decisions will carry the same rights of appeal. What is not guaranteed, is the time frame in which these accounts will be rectified. Those of you that have had dealings with CMS will be all too aware of the slow and chaotic process that will follow.
But the failings of CMS is not reserved for the Receiving Parent alone, (nor is it directly a result of the Coronavirus!). There are children in the homes of Paying Parents who face equal amounts of financial hardship because of Covid19 and the lack of activity within CMS departments.
Take the self-employed paying parent, who suddenly finds himself without work, and no income. The law requires the self-employed to provide a complete tax year of accounts before any change of maintenance can be considered. The sudden loss of contract or suspension of work would be disregarded if it fell midterm of the individuals accounting year. The result is a legal obligation to pay maintenance calculated on an income that is no longer received.
Salaried paying parents may have avoided the obstacle faced by their Self Employed counterparts, as the supply of payslips would trigger a recalculation mid-year, providing the reduction is greater than the 25% tolerance. Of course, that threshold is slightly higher than the reduction seen through the furlough scheme, so many paying parents saw no change to their liability even with a reduced income. Particularly hard hit are those families with two working parents both of whom may have seen their incomes lost or reduced as a result of Covid19.
The reduction in staffing levels exasperates the problem further. For a limited set of reasons, CMS would recalculate maintenance, often with no verification being required. But those who fell outside of these limited scenarios, or who may already have disputes lodged against decisions were not even allowed to call. The paying parent who, despite the supply of P45’s, a new contract of employment, and wage slips continues to be wrongly assessed on both past and current income, is unlikely to agree that his case is not urgent. Neither would he agree that his two small children are any less important than the child in the application.
Children cost money, irrespective of the curveballs life may bring; “FixTheCMS” is a cause to get behind, but we should not overlook the impact of Covid19 to those children who happen to live in the home of the paying parent. For many Paying Parents, CMS is no bed of roses for them either.