Future policy options for child support: the views of parents

Authors: Adele Atkinson, Stephen McKay and Nicola Dominy
Funded by: Department for Work and Pensions
Published by: Corporate Document Services
Publication date: July 2006
Report number: DWP Research Report No 380
ISBN: 1847120857
ISBN13: 9781847120854

The Child Support Agency was set up in 1993 as a result of legislation designed to enforce parental responsibilities to care for their children. Whilst the 1991 Child Support Act enjoyed widespread support, the good intentions behind the Child Support Agency have not been translated into good performance.

The purpose of this study was to examine the views and reactions of parents on the future of child support policy, and to provide an insight into the preferences of parents with care and non-resident parents.

The research was undertaken during May and June 2006 and is based upon a series of focus groups that examined the views and experiences of a mix of 31 parents with care, non-resident parents and 'intact' couples.

The parents were presented with a range of different types of policies, some of which had already been adopted in other countries. These included: the idea of a state guaranteed maintenance scheme; a universal system that all parents would be obliged to use; a complete disregard of the maintenance payments benefit claimants receive, thereby allowing them to keep child support as additional income to their benefits; a 'responsible-parents' model where parents would come to agreements amongst themselves with Government 'back-up' for those who cannot agree; and a return to a court-based system of determining child maintenance.

In general, parents were in favour of a 'responsible-parents' model where parents would reach their own agreements on child support. They were also in favour of disregarding the child support received by benefit claimants and keen that more vigorous enforcement methods should be used by Government to chase non-payers.

Future policy options for child support: the views of parents [ Full report (PDF, 306kB) | Research summary (PDF, 57kB) ]

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