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Child maintenance fees 'give stronger incentive to pay'

New child maintenance fees will force parents trying to get out of paying for their youngster to cough up, a work and pensions minister has told Good Morning Britain.

Steve Webb dismissed claims the Government would make money by charging rowing parents for use of the child maintenance service, and said the fees were about "getting people to pay to benefit children".


Minister: Child Support Agency 'not fit for purpose'

The Government is phasing out the Child Support Agency (CSA) as it is "not fit for purpose", Work and Pensions minister Steve Webb has said.

"The old CSA was just not fit for purpose - it spent £503 million in one year to transfer £1.1bn of maintenance and left more than 50% of children living in separated families with no effective financial arrangement in place at all," Mr Webb said.

Steve Webb was critical of the Child Support Agency's performance. Credit: David Jones/PA Wire/Press Association Images

He said the new Child Maintenance System (CMS) would encourage separated parents to agree together on how to provide for their children.

Under the new regime, parents who fail to come up with an agreement face fees for using the CMS, while there are also charges for absent parents who try to avoid paying maintenance.

£300 fine for late child maintenance payments

Parents who have to be pursued through the courts or have child maintenance payments deducted from their wages will risk a charge of £300 under a new child support system that comes into force today.

Parents will also face fees if they cannot come to an amicable arrangement on supporting their children financially.

The new system means the Child Support Agency (CSA) will be phased out over the next three years and replaced with the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

Letters have already been sent to 50,000 parents in England, Scotland and Wales earlier this year warning them of the changes.

Parents risk fees if they fail to agree on child support

Separated parents will be hit by charges if they cannot come to an agreement over child support for their children under a new system coming into force today.

Parents who turn to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to collect and pay settlements will face hefty fees.

The parent not living full-time with their children will face a 20% surcharge on top of their support payment, while the other parent faces losing 4% of the money they would normally receive.

Children of addicts have to 'cover up something sad'

Children of parents who abuse drugs and alcohol have to "cover up something that is so dreadfully sad" while trying to grow up themselves, the adult child of an alcoholic told Good Morning Britain.

Giselle Mannering described the demands on young children and teenagers with addict parents, after the charity ChildLine announced calls to its helpline about family members with substance abuse problems had doubled in the last year.

"You have to cover things up. You have to deal with all the rubbish that is going on at home - the arguments, the drinking, the lack of parental support at home...and then you have to go into school and perform."


Children forced to live in dirty and dangerous conditions

Many children are being forced to live in dirty and even dangerous surroundings and lack many essentials including having enough to eat and clean clothes to wear because the household money is frittered away on booze, the charity warned.

My dad has been drinking and taking drugs a lot recently - it's ruining our family.

He gets angry when he has been drinking so he says nasty things to us like we are stupid and worthless. I'm finding it difficult to deal with because underneath it all I know he's a really good dad.

– A child, who cannot be identified, speaking to ChildLine.

The emotional trauma of their parents' substance abuse combined with their chaotic home lives is driving many children to depression, self harm and even suicidal thoughts, the NSPCC said.

Number of children calling ChildLine doubles in a year

The number of children calling ChildLine to confide in a counsellor about their parents' drinking and drug abuse has doubled in the past year, the charity has revealed.

The 24-hour helpline received 5,323 calls - more than 100 a week - from children scared by their parents' behaviour, a rise on the 2,509 calls it fielded the year before.

The number of children calling calling ChildLine has increased. Credit: read: Jon Challicom/ChildLine/PA Wir

Most of the children turning to the NSPCC-run service were between the ages of 12 and 15, but a substantial minority - one in 10 - were aged 11 or under and still at primary school.

In a stark warning, the charity said thousands of children live in fear of being on the receiving end of their parents' anger, with one in six saying they had fallen victim to physical violence by their mum or dad when they were under the influence.

Charity CEO: We must 'urgently' make roads child safe

Sustrans launched its Campaign for Safer Streets today, urging parents to write to their MP to demand every child be given the right to a safe journey to school.

Sustrans chief executive Malcolm Shepherd said:

In 2012, a total of 33 children were killed and more than 1,800 were seriously injured while walking or cycling. If a whole classroom of children had been killed under other circumstances there would be public outcry.

There's a simple solution in our hands. We must urgently make our roads safer for those children already making a healthy, active school run and also to encourage those who don't feel safe enough to start walking or cycling.

– Malcolm Shepherd

'44% of parents consider road safety biggest concern'

A total of 470 parents who have a child aged five to 11 who travels to and from school were polled in a survey from the sustainable transport charity Sustrans.

In the parents survey it showed:

  • 18% said their child had experienced a vehicle not stopping at a pedestrian crossing
  • 13% said their child had experienced a speeding vehicle nearly hitting them.
  • 5% said their child had been hit by a vehicle while walking
  • 44% said the safety of their child on the road was their biggest concern.
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