Features, Opinion, Parenting, Politics

Why are non paying parents not given a rougher ride?

It was announced yesterday that the government plan to scrap the (toothless) Child Support Agency and replace it with the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission will bring with it new powers to deduct child maintenance directly from non resident payers’ pay packets.

Now, before we all get too excited (and by “we” I’m talking about the many thousands of lone parents who receive little or no child maintenance) a quick delve into the proposals and remit of this new agency reveal some worrying changes. More about that later.

I have a very personal interest in the way our society deals with parents who do not provide financial support for their children, mainly because I am one of the majority. Yes. Stop and read that last line again. It is estimated that three out of five resident parents receive no financial support from the non resident parent.

I have two children and I divorced my husband, due to unreasonable behaviour, back in 2005. I have never received a single, solitary penny in support. For years I decided that this was OK, and I didn’t want to “rock the boat”. The reasons that I didn’t turn to the CSA years ago are many and after speaking to other people, I find that my experience is not unusual.

Fear

Much better to be poor but safe

The fear of reprisals – either physical (Parents who have fled abusive relationships are often terrified of any contact with an abusive partner) or emotional (Refusal to maintain contact with the children after a claim has been lodged).

I don’t want disagreements over everything from haircuts to holidays

Fear of Control – There are many women (because, come on, let’s be honest, 90% of lone parents with residency are women) who suffer financial control within their relationships. Women are more likely to be primary care givers and therefore not working. During my conversations with other people in my situation the number of people who are relieved that they do not have to account for every pound they spend on their children to the non resident parent was shocking.

Frustration

What’s the point? All that hassle for £2.50 per week?”

The endless battle to force a non payer to actually face up to their responsibilities can drive many claimants to distraction. On a personal level I find it infuriating that the father of my children has refused to answer any of the letters sent out by the CSA and has, as usual, buried his head in the sand as far as this whole matter is concerned. I’m tired of phoning the agency, only to be told that he has not responded and that another letter will be sent. I am only 3 months into the process and I cannot imagine how it feels to be 3 years in and still without any financial benefit.

Karma

“They’re the ones missing out and Karma is a bitch”

This is the constant, heartbreaking, cry of many of us. We tell ourselves and one another, that there is a divine force at work, one that will settle our scores and make things equitable in the end. Of course, it’s a lie. A necessary one, a lie that helps us to cope with the day to day struggles, but is it a damaging one? I believe so – this belief weakens us and encourages passivity. Karma won’t pay that electricity bill this month will it?

The Children Will Know

One day the children will know all that you did for them and all that he didn’t

Well, no, actually. Thank you very much. I don’t want my children to hate their father – how damaging is that to their psyche? I want their father to be forced to pay. It is, after all, the very least he could do.

I finally batted away these fears and “reasons” in August of this year. Six years after my divorce and 8 years since my final separation.

I have now been awarded a payment of £40 per week for my two children. This works out at £2.85 per day, per child. Just about enough to provide them with an evening meal every day, however I am one of the lucky ones. The majority of awards are in the region of £5 per week. That’s a whole 71 pence per day. Of course, he hasn’t paid anything and is now £440.00 in arrears. When I contacted the CSA to find out the status of my claim, I was informed that they are unable to start further proceedings until the arrears total £500.00 or 13 weeks of non payment. That’s just great for those who are truly impoverished and are relying on child support just to pay for food.

There’s something very wrong here, and I’m starting to wonder why our society puts more effort and vigour in chasing parking fines than it does for non payment of child support. I’m starting to wonder why there is a blanket acceptance that this is “just the way it is”. I’m starting to wonder why there are high profile campaigns for fathers who want to fight to see their children (Fathers For Justice for example) but nothing for those women who are on their uppers trying to provide for their children.

I’m starting to wonder about it all.

Remember at the start of this post I mentioned that there are changes afoot?

One of the changes proposed is that, apart from survivors of domestic violence, the use of the CSA to set maintenance and chase the parent for payment will be chargeable. That’s right, going forward if the non resident parent refuses to pay child maintenance, the parent who is not receiving financial support, will be charged by the agency to force the issue.

You can read more here

So what can we do?

You can start by reading about the campaign by Gingerbread, the wonderful charity which campaigns and gives practical help to single parents and getting involved in anyway you can.

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