A CHILD maintenance rule has left one single father in debt, after he was forced to keep up with payments, despite taking a wage cut when placed on furlough.
Child Maintenance is described by the government website as an “arrangement between one person and the other parent of their child” and is drafted formally with government assistance. It covers how a child’s living costs will be paid when parents are separated, and both parents are responsible for the costs.
In the UK, regular payments must be made for children who are under the age of 16, or under 20 if they are in approved education or training.
One father, however, has raised his concerns about how the service is currently functioning amid the lockdown, and has highlighted an issue which could affect many.
The 36-year-old father of two, who did not wish to be named, said he was forced to continue paying despite a significant cut to his income.
The man worked as a hotel chef, but as a result of widespread business closures across the country, he was furloughed from his job on March 23.
In accordance with government policy which stipulates payees should report changes in circumstances, he approached the Child Maintenance Service to report his lowered salary and request a recalculation of the amount he was required to pay.
Under furlough rules currently in place by the government, most employees will only have their salary covered at 80 percent.
As close to nine million people have taken furlough, many have witnessed a wage cut of 20 percent, much like the father-of-two.
However, despite this, a little-known rule has meant these people are not able to alter their Child Maintenance payments.
This rule is that the organisation will only alter a paying parents’ payments if their wage increases or decreases by 25 percent or more.
The father has therefore been forced to keep up with his regular payments, despite a reduction in income.
He has stated that while losing approximately £400 per month in wages, he has still been required to pay £220 per month in maintenance – leaving him in debt.
He told Hull Live: “I am not against paying for my children, but it has to be right, and it has to be fair.
“There must be thousands of dads like myself who want to do right by their children, but who are always shafted by child maintenance.”
The Child Maintenance Service is currently limited as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
This is because thousands of staff have been moved out of the department to deal with a high influx in Universal Credit claims.
The government website also states it is currently taking longer than the usual one month to set up Child Maintenance Service cases because of coronavirus.
In traditional circumstances, people can manage their case online, providing them with a quick and easy way to monitor their payments.
These individuals are also prompted to report any changes to their circumstances to the CMS in order to ensure they are paying the right amount.
However, for those who do not keep up with payments, or fail to pay the correct amount, the service can impose harsh penalties.
Those who have to pay may in fact end up circumvented, with the service able to take payments directly from an employer before the paying parent even receives their wages.
This is done in order to make sure a child receives the support to which they are entitled.
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “It has always been the case that we recalculate Child Maintenance payments if a person’s income changes by more than 25 per cent, balancing stability for children with support for parents if their income reduces.
“We continue to support those on low incomes and have injected a further £6.5bn into the welfare system to help those in most need, as well as rolling out income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and additional security for renters.”