Record number of domestic abuse victims seek child support

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A record number of victims of domestic violence are turning to the Child Maintenance Service for financial support from ex-partners, but campaigners say the current system is pushing women and children into poverty.

The UK’s Child Maintenance Service is inappropriate and allows for the economic abuse of victims of domestic violence, activists told Mazic News.

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Domestic Violence Charity refuge said the current system is driving women and children into financial hardship and poverty and called for the system to be reformed.

The statement comes as new government figures show a record number of domestic violence victims are turning to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) for financial support from ex-partners.

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The latest figures from the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) show a surge in domestic violence victims trying to arrange child support earlier this year. In the three months ended March 2022, CMS filing fees for parents were waived more than 15,000 times for domestic violence, the highest number on record.

Parents must pay an application fee of £20 when applying, but this is waived if the application is made by a victim of domestic violence or if the parent applying is under 19 years old. Exceptions accounted for 60% of all claims in March 2022, 99% of which were related to domestic violence.

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Since 2015 (when current records began) over 316,000 fee waivers have been granted to abuse victims, totaling £6.3 million in fee waivers. The Child Maintenance Service only began proactively asking parents if they had experienced domestic violence in May 2018.

“CMS does nothing to enforce the payment”

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Refuge CEO Ruth Davison said the charity regularly supports survivors of domestic violence who said their abusers refuse to pay child support.

“Withholding child support is a form of economic abuse and is often used to exercise further control over a survivor after separation,” Ms Davison said.

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“As recent DWP figures show that more abuse survivors are seeking child maintenance, it is vital that Child Maintenance Service staff receive specialized domestic violence training so they can support these survivors.

“Currently the Child Maintenance Service is not fit for purpose. Refuge consistently hears from survivors that the perpetrators are not paying child support and that the Child Maintenance Service is doing nothing to enforce the payment – leaving women and children in financial distress and poverty.

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“The system needs to be reformed if it is to work for survivors and not expose them to further abuse and financial insecurity.”

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The DWP said it takes the issue of domestic abuse seriously and is committed to ensuring parents get the help and support they need.

A spokesman said: “All CMS case workers have received specific training on domestic violence to enable them to quickly identify parents in this group and provide appropriate support. In particular, caseworkers use a complex needs toolkit that provides clear steps to support vulnerable clients experiencing domestic violence. It is the priority of the service to handle these cases sensitively.

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“The CMS can act as an intermediary for parents to facilitate the exchange of banking details and ensure that no personal information is shared. The CMS will also provide parents with information on how to set up a bank account with a central routing number that cannot be traced.”

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