Month: June 2013

Legal aid cuts prompt rise in child custody cases

Throughout May a record number of child custody cases were brought before the courts in what may be directly linked to the cuts in legal aid which come into force shortly.

A record number of 9,398 cases were heard in May according to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass). Nine out of ten of these were custody cases, an increase of 27% on the same month in 2012.

Child welfare experts who are trying to champion the use of mediation services, say that these latest reports are worrying. Cafcass Chie Executive Anthony Douglas said;

“All of us in the family justice system are working hard to steer families towards more constructive alternatives to court applications.

“Cafcass will also continue to discuss the reasons behind any changes to application levels with solicitors and other family-justice agencies over the coming months.”

Child Maintenance – How many parents are really paying?

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, 81% of non-resident parents are paying the child maintenance that they should. However a recent charity report states that this figure is in fact much lower.

A campaign group for single parents states that the DWP are grossly overestimating the number of parents who are up to date with their child maintenance payments. Gingerbread claim that thousands of children could be missing what is owed to them by their parent.

DWP official guidelines state ┬áthat, a CSA payment is regarded as ‘in-effect’ if any maintenance is paid, regardless of the amount;

“A case is classed as having a positive maintenance outcome if a payment has been received via the collections service in the quarter, or if a maintenance direct arrangement is in place.”

Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir says:

“The DWP itself predicts that as more families set up direct payments, once the new child maintenance service starts charging to collect, only one in four (28%) of these arrangements will be paid in full and on time. The department cannot therefore claim to believe that all existing direct pay arrangements are compliant, and it seems extraordinary that it would continue to over-claim in this way.”

The DWP have reacted to this statement from gingerbread by stating that the 28% figure from Gingerbread quoted above was “factually incorrect”, stating that the DWP estimate “30 per cent of parents with the care of children will continue to use the Direct Pay service, but there may be issues with the other parent being fully compliant”.