1. ITV Report

Government scheme aims to brings parents together

Families can enjoy hands on activities at the farm Photo: ITV News Westcountry

From today, parents who've separated are now able to spend time with their children together - under a scheme started in Bristol by the government. The programme at Windmill Hill City Farm is one of seventeen across the country where families can take part in activities together. The government, which is investing £10 million, says it will benefit children and also reduces disputes over maintenance. Bob Constantine tells us more:

On the face of it, it's an unusual way to spend taxpayers' money - encouraging families to bake cakes, play on the swings, and feed the farm animals.

Linda and Keith Godfrey separated three years ago and Keith only has limited access to his three children.

£10 million is going into seventeen such projects - including one at Windmill Hill City Farm in Bristol - as part of the government's reform of the child maintenance system.

The idea is offer help and support to parents who've recently separated by promoting family activities. That helps create an atmosphere in which they can "communicate and collaborate", say ministers, about the financial arrangements for their children's future.

Work and Pensions Minister Steve Webb - MP for Thornbury and Yate - is implementing - says they hope to help parents make financial arrangements without resorting to the courts.

With the much-maligned Child Support Agency closing its cases over the next three years, separating couples will either have to make their own maintenance arrangements or use the new Chlld Maintenance Service.

"Investing resources in supporting parents going through the early stages of separation can help prevent them falling into conflict, and turning to the courts or state to resolve their financial arrangements", the government says.

The scheme will be assessed after two years to see which approaches are the most effective".