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Govt response - Supporting separated families

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07 Nov 13 #412796 by rubytuesday
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The Government have published their response to the consultation - Supporting Separated Families; securing children’s futures.

Executive Summary -
1. On 19 July 2012, the Government published Supporting separated families; securing children’s futures (Cm 8399), a public consultation on the draft Child Support (Fees) Regulations 2013 and the draft Child Support (Ending Liability in Existing Cases and Transition to New Calculation Rules)
Regulations 2013.

2. The consultation closed on 26 October 2012 having received a total of 90 responses: 51 from individuals; 37 from organisations; and 2 from employees of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff. A full list of organisations who responded can be found at Annex A.

3. Not all respondents chose to answer the specific questions asked and many people preferred to provide their views on the proposal in general. Where possible we have tried to include these responses in the appropriate sections.

4. The consultation consisted of ten questions covering exactly how the levying of fees will work and how the 1993 and 2003 CSA schemes will be brought to a close. The principles of closing the existing schemes and charging were not part of the scope of the consultation as we have already
consulted on these.

5. Further to the written ministerial statement tabled in Parliament on 20 May 2013, which summarised the Government’s amended proposals following the consultation, this publication
summarises the main points made by respondents and provides the Government’s full response to them.

6. Respondents were largely supportive of our proposed approach to support victims of domestic violence through a simple, declaration-based, application fee waiver. However, concerns were raised that:
• the waiver could incentivise or facilitate false accusations of domestic violence;
• the list of organisations to which an applicant may have self-reported domestic violence
needed expanding; and
• the waiver should be extended to include a waiver from collection fees.

7. In our response, we have extended the list of reporting organisations to include local authorities, legal professionals and specialist support organisations. We have also clarified the status and purpose of the self-declaration as being something that exists to remove a barrier to the statutory service and which in no way accepts or implies that any given party is guilty of abuse.
We also clarify that the child maintenance service will adhere to the cross-government definition of domestic violence, which includes financial abuse.

8. With some notable exceptions, most respondents did not find 7 per cent to be an appropriate level for the parent with care collection fee. Some organisations opposed any level of collection fee on the parent with care.

9. We recognise that the parent with care collection fee is controversial and, although we continue to believe it is vital to the functioning of a system that will deliver long-term benefits for children, we have decided to reduce the proposed level of collection fee to just 4 per cent.

10. There was substantial support for placing enforcement fees low in the payment hierarchy, but only qualified support for the proposed tariff of enforcement charges. Concerns were raised that enforcement fees may fail to be effective at driving behaviour change and, in some cases, could more often result in greater levels of debt rather than greater levels of compliance.

11. In response, we reiterate how, in order to prioritise incentive effects over the full recovery of costs, the levels of charge are substantially lower than the actual costs of enforcement.

12. Most respondents did not find our proposed 30-day notice period for cases entering reactive case closure to provide a reasonable balance between the interests of the existing parent with care and the new applicant. However, respondents were roughly evenly split on whether this period was too long or too short, with some respondents suggesting alternatives such as transitioning cases automatically into the new scheme and waiving all fees.

13. The split response to this question reflects the difficult balance that we must strike between the interests of an existing parent with care and that of a new applicant to the system. Furthermore, to transition reactively closed cases automatically into the 2012 scheme would lead to excessive complexity and confusion, and undermine the Government’s fundamental commitment to offering a fresh choice to all parents, including the possibility of a collaborative arrangement.

14. Respondents saw a significant role for the voluntary and community sector in supporting parents through the case closure process. We have already worked closely with the voluntary and
community sector to ensure parents have accurate and up-to-date information on the new child maintenance Service. The briefings and training that we have provided will be a foundation for
continuing, and expanding, co-operation to support parents through this period.

15. In addition, we set out how our Help and Support for Separated Families initiative is providing a framework for better co-ordination of the services that the voluntary and community sector provides, to make it easier for parents to navigate the available support.

16. Respondents were less concerned about the length of the six-month notice period given to parents as part of the proactive case closure process than they were about what happens to
payments when a case closes on the 1993 or 2003 schemes and the parent applies to the 2012 scheme. Respondents were concerned that, under the clean slate approach proposed by the
consultation document, some non-resident parents who are currently paying through enforced payment methods would opt for Direct Pay in the 2012 scheme and then fail to comply with that
arrangement.

17. We intend to tackle the risk of payment disruption head-on through two significant changes in policy and design. First, we will introduce a positive test of compliance behaviour for non-resident parents on enforced methods of payment or, where there is ongoing enforcement action, as their cases are closed as part of the proactive case closure process. Non-resident parents who fail this test will be subject to the same enforced method of payment on the 2012 scheme as they had been on the 1993 or 2003 scheme.

18. Non-resident parents whose cases are closed reactively, where they are named in a new application, but have an existing CSA case, will only receive 30-days’ notice that their existing
case will close. This means there will be insufficient time to provide for a positive test of compliance behaviour. To address the risk of payment disruption in reactive case closure, i.e.
where the non-resident parent is subject to enforcement action in the CSA currently, we will conduct an unlikely to pay test based on the behaviour of non-resident parents in the 1993 and
2003 schemes.

19. Secondly, we will also be reordering the proactive case closure process so that cases where there is most likely to be a break in payment are moved to the back of case closure order. Leaving these cases unaffected for as long as possible will allow compliance to be firmly established before they are closed. It will also mean that more of these cases will reach their natural end on the legacy schemes without any risk of payment disruption.

20. By taking these two steps, we will be doing everything practicable to minimise payment disruption.

21. Amended draft Fees and Ending Liability Regulations will be laid before Parliament later this year. The charging of fees and ending liability in existing cases will subsequently commence later in 2014, once we have been able to gather and analyse suitably robust data on the operation of the new scheme to show that it is working well. Once we are assured of the quality of the data, statutory child maintenance scheme statistics will also be made publicly available.

© Crown Copyright 2013

The full response can be read by clicking here

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