UK child maintenance trends and why people aren’t claiming theirs ……
Raising a child is no easy feat, but you knew that already. There are no handbooks, no guided tutorials and when a separation occurs it can only make things harder, no matter how amicable the split. According to The Guardian, the cost of raising a child is ‘higher than ever’, with the average amount coming in at an eye watering £231,843 for those born in 2016.
As a single parent, this is where child maintenance comes in, to help alleviate the stress and worry associated with raising a little one singlehandedly, but many people do not take advantage of this support or feel they are unable to, due to issues with their child’s other parent. A survey looking closely at UK child maintenance, conducted by debt management service PayPlan, discovered that out of the 500 people located throughout the UK who took part, a shocking 48.8% claim to not pay or receive child maintenance, which means many single parents could be struggling unnecessarily.
However, the reasons for not claiming vary dramatically, as respondents cited ex-partners not being co-operative, that they didn’t know their whereabouts or they simply didn’t want any help from them. It’s obviously a sensitive subject and everyone’s situation varies.
Interestingly, those between the ages of 45-54 with a child under the age of 16 were the least likely to claim child maintenance, with 73% stating they do not pay or receive it compared to 42% in the 25-34 age bracket.
When it comes to child maintenance there are two ways to arrange a regular monthly payment – a family based arrangement or a statutory based arrangement. A Family Based Arrangement is an informal method, usually utilised by those who are on amicable terms with their ex partner. The survey confirmed that this is the most popular process, with 43.6% of those responding confirming they have a family based arrangement in place, while only 15.4% confirmed they had a statutory based arrangement.
It’s important to note that while this arrangement is a more positive way of ensuring your child receives the money they need, it is not legally enforceable. This is where a statutory based agreement can help, as the CMS will deal with the negotiations for those claiming, so they do not have to concern themselves with chasing their ex-partner for payments.
However, the fees associated with a statutory agreement were cited as a main reason for this type of arrangement for child maintenance not being claimed. To process a claim a £20 fee is incurred, which for low income parents could prove difficult to pay on top of the child maintenance itself. It’s important to note though that this fee isn’t unnecessary, it allows the CMS to check the income of your ex-partner, accurately calculate the maintenance owed and set up a schedule.
It also offers advice on how to arrange the payments between yourselves, as well as setting up an online account to track payments and create an annual review. For those who struggle to maintain contact with their child’s other parent there is also a collection service available – however, there is an additional fee for this. Another concern was that the process was too complicated, with 31.8% citing this as their reason for not receiving statutory child maintenance. As well as this, concerns over legalities and the length of time to set everything up were other issues highlighted by those taking part in the survey.
However, on a regional level, London was the only area where more than half of respondents were working with a family based agreement, while Scotland and its cities have some of the lowest amounts – 61.4% stating they do not receive or pay child maintenance at all. If you are owed child maintenance it is important you find a way to state your claim and work to an arrangement that suits both partners and acts in the best interest for your child.
One of the biggest costs when raising a child is childcare. With the estimated average for part time care coming in at £115 per week and full time £212, it’s no wonder so many single parents struggle to go back to work if they have no support. In fact, the costs have risen significantly over the years – by 4.3% in 2015 compared to just 2% for the average wage. PayPlan have created an interactive graphic which looks at the costs associated with raising a child at various ages which you can take a look at here.
Child maintenance is of course a sensitive issue for many single parents but something that if obtained could greatly benefit a child’s life. It’s important you consider all options before admitting defeat when it comes to claiming maintenance and yes, there may be circumstances where you are unable to, but there is help available out there no matter what your situation. Here are just a few places you can go: