Wednesday, 22 October 2008

The CSA is to become CMEC

Some will say "at last!" but I have a sneaking suspicion that we are heading for another government induced monumental cock up in the making .... yet again

The independent (pah) report condemns the CSA and it's practice of targeting "soft targets" or basically NRP's (non resident parents) that it knows will pay up and leaving the more difficult NRP's who still to this day evade paying child maintenance...

I've got to say I have mixed feelings about this latest overhaul to the child maintenance fiasco, they say CMEC (Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission) will be fairer to NRP's and take into consideration their financial circumstances, which the current CSA do not, they just see a net salary and apply a very simplistic formulae to it and come up with a monthly amount to pay, which seems a bit bizarre really, because if you earn say £100,000 a year (net) and have two children, under the current CSA rules, you can kiss goodbye to £20,000 of that towards bringing up your children in maintenance payments, which seems a little steep to me... and this is the madness of the current child support laws, some families live on £20,000 a year salary, so if I suddenly get a job which pays £100,000 (I wish...although it's not impossible because some contract work pays above that......) my ex WOULD be entitled to 20 grand a year gratis !!! .... how mad is that ? (she has never earned that much in her lifetime, let alone a year!!) they did cap the maximum amount of child maintenance so theoretically the ceiling is £24,000 a year, (fabulous) now if the NRP and PWC were still together that would be taxable income, but it's not taken into consideration !!!

but things are going to get a whole lot worse for NRP's the newly established CMEC will calculate child maintenance not on your net pay but your gross pay, they have decreased the percentage for each child, (gee thanks) percentage rates will be set at 12% for one child 16% for two children and 19% for three or more children. On paper that sound marvelous.... but no... do the maths

very simplistically, an NRP earning £100,000 under the old system would be paying 40% tax which would leave him with £60,000 net (approx) of that net salary, 20% would be deducted by the CSA for child maintenance landing him with an annual bill of £12,000

but under the new CMEC system the NRP will be assessed on his gross salary of £100,000 before tax, so his annual bill will rise to £16,000, a rise of £4000 so much for the apparent percentage drop in maintenance, I don't know about you, but do you get the impression NRP's are seen as purely cash dispensers here ? and what is more any maintenance that is paid to the PWC (parent with care) they will no longer have the equivalent deducted from any government benefits they may be on. The injustice this causes is unbelievable and it causes a lot of animosity especially when the NRP's second family is made to suffer financially propping up the welfare state like this.

so the key elements of the shiny new CMEC are :-

• Remove the compulsory element for parents with care claiming a prescribed benefit to use CSA services for child support arrangements. Parents with care will be free to make private arrangements with the non resident parent and will no longer suffer a reduction in benefit.
• Oversee an administration process in which parents can register their own private arrangements for child support.
• Provide extensive information, guidance and support to parents to fully inform them of the options available to them.
• Increase the maintenance disregard. Currently parents with care (on the new rules system) receive the first £10 of any maintenance paid. Legislation will extend these rules to encompass old rules PWCs to benefit from the £10 disregard. By 2011 this disregard is proposed to be substantially increased.
• CMEC will operate on the percentage based scheme as seen in CS2 rules but income of the NRP will be taken from the latest available tax information.

• Child maintenance will be calculated on the gross income of the NRP.
(lets squeeze some more cash out of the NRP's they aren't paying enough !!)

• Percentage rates will be set at 12% for one child 16% for two children and 19% for three or more children.
• Increase the capping of income from £2000 pw to £3000 pw
• One year fixed term payment schedules will be imposed, with variations to maintenance payable allowed only if a minimum 25% change of income is reported.
• Increase current flat rate amounts from £5 pw to £7 pw
• Using Deduction from Earnings Orders as a first method of collecting maintenance payments. This will allow CMEC to take the maintenance directly from the wages of the non resident parent.

• Remove the need to take non resident parents to court before pursuing a debt. Currently a liability order has to be granted by the courts before recovery action can be taken. CMEC will introduce an administrative process to replace the court based liability order process.

(So now NRP's have had the ability to defend themselves in court taken away from them, and are guilty until proven innocent, because the CSA NEVER made ANY mistakes .... did they ?)

• Extend avenues available to secure information on non resident parents.
(in other words, they can look at anything, held by any organisation about you, whatever happened to the data protection act ?)

• Outsource debt collection to Debt Collection Agencies who will have extended powers of entry.
(Bailiffs who can break into your house, ignoring the normal guidelines governing entry by bailiffs, in other words, AND costing the tax payer more in the long run)

Other proposals under consideration are:
• Introduce powers to confiscate passports, driving licences, introduce curfews, and tagging of non paying non resident parents.
• Introduce a “name and shame” program, making public the details of non resident parents who have failed to pay maintenance. Further consultation is in place for this particular proposal.
• Introduce a charging regime for the use of CMEC services.
• Shared care arrangements to remain as that in CS2, but with the provision to allow an interim decision on presumed shared care arrangements until the matter has been confirmed.
• Consideration and further consultation is being given to make joint birth registration compulsory.

I suppose the only real light about this new CMEC is that they are deciding whether there should be a connection between maintenance payments and contact, I wonder how many current CSA cases would be dropped like a hot brick if the PWC was forced to provide contact with the NRP ? it would certainly weed out the PWC's who were simply being vindictive and using the CSA/CMEC as a method of punishing the NRP simply because they can under the current law.

I have to say my experience of the CSA is a mindless juggernaut, where nobody there knows what is going on for months, and in some cases years, then suddenly they land you with a massive bill with very little explanation, and it doesn't instil much confidence when they have admitted using scare tactics on NRP's saying they owe thousands of pounds when they actually don't, but when it comes to a judgement they stick to their original figure and it goes undisputed, because nobody is ever accountable at the CSA, they don't even use their real names just pseudonyms....

No.... I have a feeling "CSA3 The final insult" will be a sequel too far ... millions more will be poured into the CSA money toilet, more new IT systems that don't work, more ill trained staff....... and millions more NRP's will buckle under the financial strain.... I think we are in for a rough ride.

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