Fife children suffering because of new government service

A report of the survey's findings is due out in March
A report of the survey's findings is due out in March

Single parents in Fife have spoken out amid claims vulnerable children are being let down by a new maintenance support service.

Fife Gingerbread appealed for information after learning that the service designed to track down absent parents is not being used - because it is not free.

Rhona Cunningham, Fife Gingerbread manager

Rhona Cunningham, Fife Gingerbread manager

Over 200 parents responded to the online survey, from which a report in March will contribute to a ‘Bairns Come First’ campaign later this year.

The charity estimates there are up to 7000 households in Fife without support from an absent parent.

Rhona Cunningham, strategic manager, said: “Every single day we see children who are living in poverty, heightened as a direct result of the decisions parents are making.

We see parents who care who find it far too exhausting to chase child maintenance, so they opt out entirely.”

While the UK government’s new welfare reform bill was widely publicised, individual elements of it were not, argued Gingerbread.

The Child Support Agency (CSA) was replaced with Child Maintenance Options (CMO) - an information service which cannot enforce payment.

For this, parents must access the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS) but the service charges a £20 application fee and a 20 per cent collection fee on top of any child maintenance amount paid through the ‘Collect and Pay’ service.

Furthermore ‘Collect and Pay’ also takes a four per cent commission from the parent who receives the payment.

The research survey was commissioned by Fife Gingerbread, Poverty Alliance, Citizens Advice and Rights Fife and One Parent Families Scotland.

Rhona Cunningham, manager of Fife Gingerbread, said parents would “rather starve“ than drain their energy by chasing support to which they are entitled by law.

“The really sad fact is that we have a culture in this country that silently accepts the fact that people can have children then just walk away.

“We believe this silence is the same as the culture that surrounded domestic abuse 20-30 years ago, and we want to break that silence and begin a discussion around a subject that for some reason seems to be taboo.”