Department for Work and Pensions
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Clampdown on non-paying parents Child Maintenance consultation

A clampdown on parents who refuse to take financial responsibility for their children has been set out by the government today.

  • Changes will make system fairer by speeding up enforcement action and getting money to children
  • New action to detect non-paying parents proposed as part of shakeup of Child Maintenance Service.
  • Work and Pension Secretary Mel Stride: We are clamping down on those who try to shirk their financial responsibilities

In a shakeup of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), the Department for Work and Pensions aims to improve the system so more children get the financial support they are due.

This includes ending the option of direct payments between parents through the CMS, meaning if parents do not pay it will be detected and enforcement action can be taken sooner.  

It also asks what further support the CMS can provide to help separated parents make family-based arrangements, which are agreed by parents, without state intervention, and how the CMS can better support victims and survivors of domestic abuse. 

The proposals come on the back of new laws which will fast track enforcement powers on wilfully non-paying parents including seizing cash and assets, forcing the sale of property and in the most serious cases, imprisonment – ensuring every child of separated parents is financially supported.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said:

Most parents strive to give their children the best start in life, but sadly this isn’t always the case.

This is why we are clamping down on those who try to shirk their financial responsibilities. This and tough new laws will help ensure every child gets the financial support they deserve.

DWP Minister Viscount Younger of Leckie said:

The majority of parents want to do the right thing and support their children.

However, in the case of the minority of parents who fail to meet their responsibilities, avoiding paying what they owe, these plans along with new enforcement powers will enable us to act faster.

DWP’s proposals include:

  • Stop the Direct Pay service and deal with all cases via Collect and Pay with CMS collecting and transferring all payments. This would allow the CMS to tackle non-compliance faster and, when necessary, take enforcement action more quickly.  

  • Exploring the best way to support family-based arrangements with an enhanced calculation tool, along with signposting to conflict resolution support. 

  • Asking how the CMS can better support victims of domestic or economic abuse, building on recommendations from Dr Samantha Callan’s 2023 Independent Review of the Child Maintenance Service.

This follows recent reforms to the liability order process, which will give the CMS more powers to recover money faster to crack down on parents who repeatedly fail to take financial responsibility for their children.  

The Government has also removed the £20 application fee to use the CMS, making all applications to the CMS free, to ensure no child misses out on vital support.

Further information

  • Our service is arranging more money than ever to support children of separated parents. In the 12 months to December 2023, the CMS arranged over £1.3 billion in child maintenance payments and in the quarter ending December 2023, managed 700,000 arrangements for 960,000 children. 

  • The consultation period begins on 08 May and runs until 31 July.  [LINK] 

  • Child maintenance payments from both CMS and family-based arrangements help to keep 160,000 children out of poverty each year  

  • 100,000 through non-statutory arrangements and 60,000 through the Child Maintenance Service. 

  • A minority of the maintenance arranged through the Child Maintenance Service is not paid. 

  • More information for parents on how to make arrangements for maintenance payments can be found on the  Get Help Arranging Child Maintenance tool.


Where family-based arrangements are not appropriate, the CMS provides parents with two options for organising payments: 

  • Direct Pay: Once the CMS has calculated maintenance payments, both parents agree how the money will be paid and when. 

  • Collect and Pay:  CMS collects the money from the paying parent and sends it directly to the receiving parent.

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