Child Maintenance and the Child Support Agency (CSA) is has been changing lately – to learn about your options phone the Child Maintenance Options helpline on 0843 506 0461 or use this freephone contact number: 0800 083 5130.
Until recently, advice for how to make a new claim for Child Support was to contact the Child Support Agency (Child Maintenance Service) on 0843 504 7175 or 0300 200 3100.
The Child Support Agency (CSA) is part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and is unique among government agencies in that it is authorised to take money from one citizen of the UK and then pay it to another.
If you are separated from a partner or spouse, with whom you have a child/children, then you can contact the CSA to request they calculate how much money your ex should contribute towards the upbringing of your child. Alternatively, if you are the parent of a child who does not live with you then you can contact the CSA to see how much the law states you should contribute towards that child’s upbringing.
Role of the Child Support Agency
The Child Support Agency has two primary functions. The first is to calculate how much money the the non-resident parent (NRP) should pay to the parent with care (PWC). Secondly they also have powers of collection and enforcement. Often the NRP will pay money directly to the Child Support Agency and then these funds will be forwarded to the PWC.
NRP = Non-resident parent
PWC = Parent with care
Child Maintenance Service
In 2012 the Conservative Government, in the face of criticism of the CSA from a variety of sources, started a new agency called the Child Maintenance Service. From the 25th November 2013 all new claims for child maintenance have been processed and administered by the Child Maintenance Service. However, most claims that were in payment before that date are still dealt with by by the CSA.
The major difference between the two claim processes is that under CSA regulation the PWC, did not have to pay any administration costs or fees to set up a new claim. However, under the new Child Maintenance service rules the PWC must pay £100 in order to make a claim for child support (or £50, if they are on benefits), and then a variety of administration costs once the claim is processed. The purpose of these fees are to encourage the parents to come to a resolution of their financial conflict, without resorting to the arbitration of the state.
Child Support rates
Child Support rates are:
- For one child – 15% of the NRP’s net income
- For two children – 20% of the NRP’s net income
- For three or more children – 25% of the NRP’s net income
These rates were introduced in 2003 after severe criticism of the complicated calculation methods that preceded them. However there are still many criticisms of the new calculations, especially because it does not take account of all of the parent’s outgoings.
Criticisms of the CSA
- In 2005 Charles Kennedy, the ex Lib Dem leader, stated that, for every £1.85 that gets paid in CSA £1 is spent by the government in administration costs.
- Many NRP’s claim that they have still not had their Child Maintenance payments re-assessed, following the introduction of the new rates, (above). This culminated in Mark Cook, a NRP, taking the CSA to the European Court of Human Rights in 2004.
- The CSA is notorious for its breaches of the Data Protection Act. These breaches include letters with sensitive information being sent to the wrong addresses.
- The CSA’s computer systems are notoriously slow and this has led to a number of PWCs complaining that their child support claims have not been processed months after they have been applied for.
- Many NRP’s have complained that the CSA calculations are inflexible and that they are being left on money short due to some outgoings being ignored by the CSA.
CSA Contact Details
To make a claim for Child Support, or to update or cancel an existing claim, phone the CSA on 0300 200 3100 or 0843 504 7175.
Written letters for the CSA should be sent to this address:
Child Benefit Office
PO Box 1
Newcastle Upon Tyne