Child Maintenance Service

Hello and welcome to this special program by Reform UK into the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) and its particular impact on the Armed Forces.

We’ve got an amazing program with six interviews from people in the armed forces, their experiences and the issues and the problems with the Child Maintenance Service.

I’m delighted to be joined in the studio by my special guests Ann Widdecombe and Noel Wilcox. Welcome to both of you.

This is such an important topic that most people almost have no understanding of and yet actually it’s affecting so many people’s lives so significantly. Wrong amounts being charged and the impact of that tension, the stress, the anxiety leading to harm and tragically. As I’ve discussed before on TV, even suicides.

How long have you been involved, been listening to and experiencing these challenges? What was the Child Support Agency and is now the Child Maintenance Service, well effectively since the early 1990’s when the Child Support Agency was first brought in I was actually in what was in those days called the Department of Social Security at the time.

Although I wasn’t the minister handling it, I therefore had you know, a very close connection to it and the original aim was fine. It was that there were too many people fathering children leaving it all to the state and disappearing and never being seen again. The idea was that you had an agency which would pursue those fathers to make sure that children were being maintained and that it wasn’t the responsibility of the state.

CMS Driving Suicide Rate Up

That was the theory. The theory was a good one and the theory is a very good one. It’s quite right that parents should pay for their responsibilities yes, the theory was absolutely fine. It began to go wrong at a very early stage. We had suicides in the first few months of this act, of it becoming an act. First of all, of course there are the calculations and the ability to challenge them and that has gone steadily more and more wrong over the years.

Despite several reorganizations and the CSA is now the CMS but it’s only changed in name. In practice what happens is largely men but sometimes women, the absent parent is pursued for a sum of money which the Child Maintenance Service has calculated, which it doesn’t have to justify and which in reality although in theory it can be in reality it can’t be challenged.

If a citizen wants to go to court and challenge an order that citizen cannot do so once the CMS has issued the order and so let’s just pick up on that because actually from 2011 in a work and pensions select committee there was a discussion between Steven Timms and Noel Shanahan on this particular Point.

Let’s just take a look at this clip. I think there’s some severe question marks over the figure of 3.8 I think that the work that the department has done, identifies that going back many years we used to create something called an interim maintenance Arrangement.

Essentially it was a number that was brought up to say to the non-resident parent this is how much you’ll have to pay. Actually, used as a bit of a leverage when they wouldn’t give us their pay and information which we have to ask for, so actually it was inflated. It seems to be inflated by about 300% so when they didn’t pay all those numbers have gone into arrears so the truth is actually those arrears are somewhat inflated.

CMS Inflating Claim Charges

Because of the tools that were used up to 18 years ago unbelievably so they were deliberately inflating the numbers to use it as a sort of negotiating lever. I mean, you know, how long have you been involved with this and you know what’s your own experience?

Well Richard I’ve been involved with this now for about five years, conducted extensive research into the Child Maintenance Service because I have been significantly affected myself by these calculations and as you said rightfully, every single parent out there has a financial responsibility of course.

However, what I’m seeing is that all of these parents, they’re trying to pay the correct amount of money. Exactly yes, and that’s been this this ongoing battle that we’ve been seeing for a very long time is that parents are doing everything they can to pay, but the state is inflating these incomes.

What I don’t understand is why it’s so difficult. I mean it’s quite right you want to pay the appropriate amount of money. Sometimes people make mistakes, get things wrong. It should be relatively straightforward to say okay we’ve messed up, they will sort it out and I’m guessing the vast majority are sorted out quite straightforwardly. But it does seem they actually pursue people without any evidence.

We’ve got another clip here with Steven Timms MP and Joshua Redway let’s just take a look at this. I’ve received as I suspect a number of us have, quite a few Angry emails. I’m forwarding you case details. The Child Maintenance Service has awarded a liability order for a fictitious debt. There are many thousands of cases like this one in your report. I notice you put a figure of 99.35% on the accuracy of the child maintenance calculations.

People Pursued for Money they do not Owe

Are you satisfied that the large number of people saying that there is a fictitious data are mistaken? No, we’re not satisfied with that. You know we wouldn’t necessarily use the word fictitious however it does mean that people are being pursued for debts that there is not the evidence to substantiate that they owe.

I mean that is absolutely damning, let’s be under No Illusion about that. Yes, there’s obviously the vast majority as Stephen Timms says. The evidence is correct but the idea that the state would pursue people for sums that are clearly fictitious by their own admission is unbelievable.

I mean the astonishing thing there Richard, what I’ve kind of picked up on is just the lack of response from everybody. You know this is the thing that I’m bamboozled by. Really, the fact that you know there’s an emission of inflation here and nobody has said sorry can I just understand that you’ve been inflating incomes, you know that’s an admission.

I mean, I hate to say it but this has got all the rings of another scandal. We’ve heard about with great tragedy recently at the Post Office Scandal when again actually over many years it was known there was a massive problem and some things were covered up, sort of buried below the surface, stuck in the bottom drawer and this has got that same sort of sense about it.

The examples we’re going to hear about with our special guests sort of indicate that and the time it takes to sort this out and obviously this is going on in the civilian world but why is it so particularly harmful and damaging to people in the armed forces now is because it compromises National Security.

Many Military Personnel Involved

Really Richard that’s what it is, you know if we’re relying on our men and women of the Armed Forces to go out there and do a job and the state is coming after them behind the scenes that’s a very serious problem. Absolutely and the tension and the stress I mean it’s hard enough keeping a family together when you’re in the Arm Forces as you say.

When you’re serving your country, when you might be overseas on operations for some period of time but to have this sort of overload, this burden and the errors I can imagine the tension the stress must be must be horrendous actually.

Well as you’ve just said, I mean marriage, it’s well known that the military has quite a high divorce rate, separation rate. When we are sending our men and women overseas you know to protect our values here, you know we expect them to be looked after. Absolutely right we really do. Well, thank you two.

Coming up my friends I’m going to be talking to Lee and Craig about some of their experiences. That stress, that tension. Behind every case that comes to the CMS is an individual story. Now of course it could be a story of somebody trying to dodge their responsibilities, but all too often it’s a story of wrong calculations and then no clear avenue for appeal and we’ll see that even the courts themselves are prevented from examining individual liability orders. But they all done individually.

Let’s listen to what you had to say. Are you hung out with systemic delays liability order that I’ve talked about earlier, which is the legal recognition of a debt is legislative. For us you know and that requires you to take that to court and HMCTS HM Courts & Tribunals Service have been fantastic and working with us and I think the report reflects that and moving to digital courts where we take bulk liability orders 100, 200 at a time to speed things up.

Court Appearance Process is very Slow

Individual Court appearances, so we are we are making progress on the liability order part of the process, sanctions unfortunately is a personal appearance in court again. We keep working closely with court service to see if we can speed that up but some of is legislated and we can’t get away from the fact that you need a liability order to move forward. The emphasis obviously is not on accuracy it’s on speed. Put 200 liability orders to the courts all at the same time with no opportunity at all to look at individual cases.

I’m now joined by two people, Lee Windsor and Craig Bulman who’ve had actual experience of that process. Craig tell us about your story.

Right, my story begins back in 1996 well actually 1995 when I first split up with my ex-wife. I went straight at the regiment  office set up a private payment personal, you know for to pay for the children and then 1996 just before my deployment to Bosnia I got start getting letters from the CSA and they were demanding money. I was like well how, why, you come after me? I pay for my children and it got so bad in the end I left after 16 years’ service because couldn’t cope with their harassment.

Come 2019 I got liability order for £12,000 based on what? Based on nothing, it was the dates that were the liability orders were actually dates from when I was on an assessment because I’d been off work because of a back injury. So when I challenged it they became really militant and enforced a Detachment of Earnings order at 40% of my salary and they knew that I couldn’t afford that.

Did they re-examine the assessments they’d made? No, I complained about it just because I challenged them. It’s like how dare you challenge us and then slapped on a fine. You cannot ask for a mandatory reassessment, mandatory consideration. At the tim I didn’t know nothing about all that sort of stuff and they didn’t tell you that there was a means of questioning it.

No Method of Arbitration with the CMS

I just kept complaining via email and eventually this ended up with the with ICE and then ICE took the side of the CSA and then I got to the ombudsman and they were going to take the side of the of the ICE report but then when they realized that they’d missed my work pension out um Ombudsman asked the CSA and then that was it. They admitted that they had used incorrect enforcement and the accuracy of the liability orders was totally inaccurate and the information on there was misleading as well.

So, they admitted they’ve made a mistake. Was that the end of the story?

No, I was actually, when they admitted all of to the you know the issues I’d already been made homeless. I’d been sent home from work with a severe breakdown and I lost my employment as well as a result of it and I’ve never recovered from it. Of course, if you tried to question them in a court of law what would have happened? Nothing because section 33 subsection 4 the Char Park 91 precludes the justices from questioning the calculations.

Well perhaps we should just have a look at that legislation and what it says. It clearly says that once a liability order has been issued it cannot be challenged in a court of law that is to say that the judge or the magistrate can’t look at the figures. You could come in to court with a whole load of papers that proved quite clearly that you hadn’t been earning what they say you were earning and yet the judge or the magistrate is prohibited by law, by law itself, from looking at that. Now is that Magna Carta?

Well, it’s certainly a breach of clause 29 of the 1297 enactment, that’s where we got article six from is from the 1297 enactment.

You Can’t Challenge a Liability Order in Court

I think our viewers may not necessarily understand all of that but the essence of this is that you can’t challenge this in a court.

Now you yourself have said right that it’s against Natural Justice it is, and therefore you’re going to challenge that itself. That provision itself, you’re going to challenge in a court? Yes and tell us how far that’s got? Well, I put an application for a declaration of incompatibility because article six is of the Human Rights Act 1998 is consistently being compromised by section 33 subsection 4 the child support act 1991.

Well, your right to a fair trial has been totally whitewashed but of course now there’s not even a necessity to go to court? No, because the secretary of state has decided that he himself can just issue an order. That I would say is a breach of separation of powers. Let’s see what he has to say. This is Lord Jer and so this bill makes important improvements to CMS enforcement processes by amending existing Powers.

Once commenced this will allow the Secretary of State to make an administrative liability order where the paying parent has failed to pay an amount of child maintenance without the need to make an application to court, so even if you win your incompatibility fight, he can make the order anyway so it seems to be loaded against you.

So that’s your experience Greg, Lee, tell us about yours?

Made Up Sums Demanded

So, a CMS strike went up against me in 2008 and I was paying it from my war pension. They asked if I was receiving any benefits, they totally disregarded it and where I should have been on the flat rate assessment in 2012, 2013 I started complaining about. They hadn’t taken that into account and in 2014 they admitted they made an official error so they admitted it.

Actually, admitted they’d made an error an official error. Yes, but that wasn’t the end of the story no. They managed, administrated my case and said I had overpaid by £6,000. I thought that was going to be it, but they actually overturned that decision obviously with variations put in by my ex-partner and went back to the start of the case with the arrears of over £18,000 which was totally made-up sum.

I then had to go down the route of a mandatory reconsideration and ended up at a tribunal in which the judge said it was out of his jurisdiction and he couldn’t make a decision. You go to a tribunal and the judge can’t make a decision. He told me to complain to the Child Maintenance Service. The same happened to me as well so and when you complain again, I went down the complaint route and their answer was look, this is it, we’re correct.

I went to ICE (Independent Case Examiner) like Craig, to the PHSO (Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman) and they’ve all sided with the CMS. Then they started now going for liability orders in which I went to court and was the court magistrates granted the liability orders. Again, I wasn’t allowed to show any evidence because of this support act 1991 section 33 and liability orders were granted. I’ve tried to appeal against them in which I went to the FRC Financial Remedies Court, yes as told by judge.

The CMS is Contrary to Magna Carta

Here is it, judge says yeah and that was a way to appeal the decisions with an N161 form and they’ve basically replied to me no, this is not how you do it. Return to the CMS. So, there’s no clear path of appealing these liability orders and I just cannot get rid of them. So in summary you can have an order made, they can then admit as in both your cases that there was an error yes? But instead of that being the end of the story and then them putting everything right because of the error they persist with the original demand and in summary there is no clear Court route for you to be able to challenge that demand?

That is what it comes down to yes, so what they say is law what the CMS says is law and that is of course completely contrary to Natural Justice. It is actually contrary to Magna Carta and it is contrary to the British Convention that government can always be challenged in a court of law and so it would seem that CMS enjoys a uniquely privileged position in government in this country.

Now, I’d like to bring into this conversation Kevin who’s currently serving with the RAF and Kevin has a slightly different slant on this one with the same result. Kevin hello there thank you for joining us. Can you just give us a run through of your story?

Yeah, my ex-partner withheld my children whilst I had a 50/50 equal shared care order given out by the family courts. The Child Maintenance Service contacted myself and on their initial Gambit said that and I quote; “you will have nothing to pay through the Child Maintenance Service if you are sharing equal shared care.

CMS is a Law unto Itself

I provided my court documents and put my faith in them but told them that she was withholding the children at which point they  completely drew a line under the court order and said no. So therefore, there is a case to answer which ultimately resulted in me being deducted from my earnings. A Court decides that it’s 50/50, your ex-partner decides that it’s not 50/50 after all and the CMS then without any amendment to that original court order decides to levy from you child maintenance is that right?

That’s correct yes so once again the CMS is acting as a law unto itself, very much so and then you are hit financially by going back to the courts to enforce the order. You’re essentially paying twice each month one to the receiving parent and one to your legal team to enforce the court order that you already have. Of course, it is very common as well I know for women to use the children as a bargaining point with an ex-partner. I’d say it extends all over the spectrum so males and females it’s just the service affording everybody to completely turn a blind eye to any court order, break it and there is no financial result and for them there’s just a benefit as the CMS will turn around and state, they do have a case for receiving funds.

Thank you very much for sharing your story with us so what have we got we’ve got a government department that apparently just can act outside of the law, independently of the law, is obliged by law to rubber stamp what they decide. How can that be just? So in this Reform UK special program into the impact of the Child Maintenance Service on people’s lives. It’s brilliant to be able to look into individual case studies and in particular the impact on those brave men and women in our Armed Forces.

The Plot: Nadine Dorries Amazon Ad

CMS and it’s Impact on the Military

I’m delighted to be joined in the studio by Mark and Tony and then also a guest down the line. Guys, thanks for being with us. Look I know this is difficult but it’s such an important topic and what I’m actually going to do first is play a clip from Caroline Nokes which was on the 27th of February so very recently in the Houses of Parliament just about the impact, the distress that’s caused on people working in the forces.

Let’s just take a look at this, when constituents come to our surgeries to discuss their Child Maintenance Service concerns, cases, complaints they are almost invariably very distressing meetings that we have with them; including a man in tears because he simply couldn’t get the Child Maintenance Service to adequately explain the arrears on his account on the phone. They would tell him that he owed nothing and then days later he would get a letter telling him he was several thousand pounds in arrears, they would then attach a deduction of earnings orders to his employer the Ministry of Defence whereas he said it became professionally very difficult for him because he wasn’t allowed to be in debt.

Yet whenever he spoke on the phone, he was told that he was not in debt, so look there are complexities and confusions within the system that still Prevail. That’s Caroline Nokes talking about it.

Mark just tell us a little bit about your story and the impact on your life?

My story started around 2009 and an assessment was made which predated my daughter’s birth. That’s an assessment of the income assessment of my income before your daughter’s birth? Yes, so the case started while my daughter was here, but the date they used predated her birth right so they did an assessment and then at that time I was on about probably £30,000 a year.

My earnings were incorrectly assessed

The assessment came through and it assessed me on £70,000 odd. I was earning about £30,000, about half of that. I then went and queried it; said Well, I’ve never earned that much money. They said, well, that’s the assessment and because I hadn’t responded within a certain time frame, they said I had to pay that much there and then.

I gave my present employer details which was about £25k a year but they still persisted with the £70,000 and they made their calculations based on that and then chased me ever since. I’ve been querying and sort of going back to them say look this is wrong, this is wrong and could you correct it and where did it end up? Did they go as far as a liability order?

Yes, so later on down the line a liability order was heard but that was heard in a place some 200 plus miles from where I live, so the liability order was granted and then at the later date the charging order was then placed on my house so they placed a charging order and did they try and sell your house. This would been going on for some time now so up until 2019 they tried to get a possession order of my house to recover what they alleged was about £9,000, unbelievable.

Then you actually showed you had some proof of payment. I had. What did they do then? I had some proof of payments; they still went ahead with the charging order. I went to court and one of your earlier colleagues turned up with me he helped me out. The courts didn’t Grant the Possession Order and so there I promised to make a payment of £150 a month until it was sorted out.

CMS are Destroying Lives

Since then, until now I’ve been trying to sort out the arrears and trying to sort out the liability order with the CMS. I mean just extraordinary and seems to take I mean this for you been like over a decade, yes, yeah definitely so much so I just can’t believe the level of the time frame and the level of Errors. Just absolutely huge and just finally Mark I mean how’s this impacted on you, on your own you’re in state of mind?

OK so I’m an ex-serviceman, I’m very proud of it, quite right too and since leaving the services I played rugby, boxing, I’ve become a rugby coach for youth team, paragliding, Adventure Training so those are the things that are my hobbies. Sounds brilliant. Yeah, so I try to keep active I try to you know carry on the military sort of ethos type thing.

Since the CMS have come into my life it’s just chipped away, chipped away, I don’t recognize myself now I’ve become, I’m not as adventurous as I used to be. Stripped Away, your whole sort of sense of trust in the administration. You serve your country, the very least you would expect is that the administration would properly serve you and it’s debilitated. It sounds like it has. I mean during my time in the service I haven’t experienced any PTSD.

I haven’t you know; I think I’ve came across came out pretty unscathed. Since then, since the CSA have got involved with me, I’m getting palpitations, I’m having to speak to sort of counsellors just to sort of get over the emotional impact of this. There’ve been times when its really tough.

I can see, I can sense Mark that it’s really tough. Well, you know sharing these stories is helping thousands of people. That’s why it’s so crucial, Let’s bring in Tony, you also have had a difficult experience. Just again share with us Tony, you’re a boxer, a serious boxer. I gather in the forces my case started back in 1993. The payments they asked for were wrong, they didn’t take into consideration my wife and my new wife and my children.

CMS increased my Payments by 75%, my wages had not done so

We put up with it, I was paying regular payments for years, I got promoted to Sergeant. I was number one in the Army at boxing. I was a confident strong man and then within 12 months I’d be in the Colonel’s office, I’ve been tears, I was like this is not me. Then they upped my payments by 75%. My wages did not go up by 75% but their payments did. I had to pay and that caused a massive amount of stress on me on my family, my wife. You obviously told them that they’d got the number you know the amounts wrong. Yeah, I get you.

The CMS didn’t care and that was just the beginning of a war with them. I had a breakdown, I broke up with my wife, drinking heavily. I did something stupid one day which I regret. You don’t need to go into that. The thing is that you were doing the right thing, you were serving your country, paid religiously never missed a payment, did everything right and then I copped it and that was just the beginning because when I left the Army it got even worse.

Thanks to craig was on earlier, I don’t know how I’d have managed it. It was about two years ago where I was paying. My ex-wife passed away and I was having to pay her husband the arrears which weren’t real, were fictitious arrears which I’ve proven, to a man that didn’t even raise my children and he didn’t pass the money onto my children either as my daughter told me and your children by them were adults. Yeah, my son was 29, my daughter’s 31.

Tony thank you for sharing this because it’s so important that others understand that they’re not alone with their own issues particularly in the army, in the armed forces, just left the armed forces and people have got to talk about this thing and share it with people.

CMS Internal Review Process

Let’s just look at this clip with Arlene Sugden who’s the director of the Child Maintenance Service just about the process the accountability and the impact. Take a look at this being new into the department I’m already aware having seen some of the correspondents that I’ve had to sort of look at and sign off on some absolutely tragic cases.

I think it’s absolutely appalling that this case or cases can lead to people taking their own lives. I mean can I just pick up the point you were making arene that when you become aware that a client of the services has taken their life you carry out an investigation, what comes out of that?

I mean there’s an investigation report I suppose. What do you do with that? Does anything get published? Talk us through the review process? It is more transparent but we very much just look at the case notes a lot of the time.

We’ve had no contact with that parent for quite considerable time so what we’re looking for is any involvement of ourself that could have had an impact and if we think that’s the case then that’s when we would refer it to the department’s internal review process.

It’s very much us looking at our own interaction with that parent, contact history and determining if we could have done something that may have been the final straw sort of thing. David Lyn wants to come in then and then Sean Bile just ask a question to that. I mean doesn’t that mean that the department in essence is marking its own homework? Is that appropriate?

More CMS Case Studies

There you are, that’s the key point. The department is marking its own homework when the situation is so serious that tragically it ends in suicide.

Well, I’m now joined down the line by Tony who’s a decorated Marine to discuss his own case. Tony thanks for being with us. You’ve been listening in to Mark and Tony here in the studio, just tell us briefly about your own experience with the CMS please?

Tony: Yeah, thank you, thank you. I served seven years as a former Commando, gained my wings, worked with Navy Seals and US Marine Corp and was recommended for selection at the age of 18. My involvement with CMS or CSA at the time Child Support Agency stems back to 2011. I was on operational tour at that point from March to October 2011 and when I returned home, I received a multitude of letters where deduction of payments were being taken and this was a calculation based on other bonuses which other veterans of experience such as danger pay living allowance so forth.

This put me you know financially behind on my own personal bills and I wasn’t able to perform as a soldier.

Unbelievable, and you ended up, did they offer you a paternity test in your situation? What’s the situation there? I queried parental rights straight away, I stated I’d like a DNA test, they refused on a number of occasions. Thankfully I had my unit come forward and they said they would look to cover the cost. The £200 cost for the DNA test when we were trying to get the details for the CSA. The Child Support Agency declined due to data protection and we weren’t able to get any further.

CMS & Mental Health Harms

Wow even though you had a legal right to do that, what’s been the overall impact on you. Tony with this really difficult experience with the CSA how’s it impacted on your mental health, your state of mind?

Just like Mark and a number of other veterans I feel like I’m a shell of a man. My career went downhill, I got injured in Afghanistan and you know struck with an IED. I’m very fortunate on a foot patrol, where lacerations to my arms, face and now a confirmed diagnosis of PTSD and yeah showing emotion is I think it’s a sense of weakness and you know we put our pride on the shelf.

It’s so important though Tony to share it because it’s not a sign of weakness actually, it’s a sign of strength to talk about it so that people can understand because it’s helping you and it’s helping others. I think that’s absolutely vital well I’m really hoping that with these discussions that we can get through this, that it’s helping all of you.

Tony down the line and indeed Mark and Tony in the studio, thank you so much for sharing that with us. Tony it’s really important keep talking about it and we wish you well. Thank you very much indeed guys.

There we are, three more shocking experiences where errors, lack of care within the Child Support Agency and the Child Maintenance Services having absolutely devastating impact on the lives of those who’ve served our country.

We are Witnessing Incompetence

It’s not acceptable, it’s got to change and that’s why we’re talking about it and coming up we’re going to be reviewing all of these cases and what we need to do about it with Ann Widdecombe and Noel Wilcox. Stand by on this Reform UK special into the impact of the Child Maintenance Service on the lives of those who’ve served our country.

We’ve heard some incredible experiences and the truth is I mean the guys, they could have talked for double the length of time. They didn’t actually refer to their suicidal thoughts, cancer impacting on some of their lives, the stress, the tension. You heard also about just how much they became shells of their former selves, absolutely devastating and we can look at this graphic on the screen, the timeline.

This has been going on not for a couple of years, this has been going on for 30 years. Just on this screen here originally it was the Child Support Agency under the Conservative party then the Labour party, then it became the Child Maintenance Service under the Conservative party.

With these clips it seems that Westminster is aware of it but frankly not doing anything about it and this level of incompetence is unbelievable. We’ve got Ann and Noel back in the studio for their reflections on these experiences.

Ann, you first well, isn’t it just incompetence? There are remedies to incompetence, it is something much worse than that. It’s intransigent, it’s about the department being a law unto itself quite unlike any other government department I’ve ever known.

Follow the Money

It is really, it is also a question of not caring. I mean they do not care. One person told me he was sobbing on the phone to them and the girl actually laughed, actually laughed. It’s utterly mindboggling that could be the state of mind. You’ve talked about intransigence, incompetence. Is it actually in some cases worse than that, is it is it deliberate?

I mean because sometimes you can’t believe this. If you don’t understand something sometimes, I’ve got an old expression follow the money. I mean there’s a lot of money involved here. Now you actually taught me that Richard, follow the money.  You listen to me, I did actually, I listen to you yeah if you do follow the money there’s something actually quite a lot going on here. So, in the recent National Audit Office report I found a receipt, that was where money was collected but not passed on to the receiving parent.

In that report it contained quite disturbing information that the CMS had actually carried out an investigation and they found other instances of where this had happened. Do you want to actually know how many cases this involves? I mean, we need to know okay, so there were 12,173 cases where the sum of about £2.2 million was collected when those cases were closed.

How does that happen though? look I genuinely don’t know how that could possibly happen, but also this is where the cases were closed but also in another instance Richard there was 12,293 cases where it was switched onto direct pay. Why has that money still been collected when that paying parent is paying the receiving parent direct there’s no reason for the child maintenance.

Payments not passed onto the Receiving Parent

Is that a double payment? It is essentially yes. It is a double payment now if we look at the figures approximately £4.4 million has been collected but not passed on to the receiving parent and this is quite often something that we hear of consistently that the receiving parents are saying we’re not getting this money but they’re blaming the dad and then coming up with this narrative that these are all dead-beat dads. So do we think that that money is sitting in some account through incompetence at the CMS or do we think somehow it’s going into the wrong account, someone else’s account or a bit of each?

Well, all I can say Richard is that I’ve checked all the account balances on the NAO report and I can’t find where this £ 4.4 million has been listed anywhere on the books in any form of a Trail. The answer is we don’t know, but it’s in a sense it’s a serious question and these things have got to be picked up by members of parliament and questions asked.

There is a history of case workers from the Child Maintenance Service who have actually been sent to prison and I’ve got three that I’m aware of right now and these are quite significant sums of money. It Beggars belief, have you ever and you touched earlier that it was like the worst department you had seen by far by far.

I mean that’s a really serious statement and observation because you’ve seen a number of these departments. I’ve seen a lot of them and I was in three different departments over the course of seven years when I was in government and I have never known a department that was so able and isn’t liable by law, to just be its own judge, its own jury and its own executioner.

CMS is devastating families

I mean that just sums it up and it feels like that, it’s intransient, it’s incompetence. There may be a level of fraud in there and it’s uncaring and it’s uncaring totally, totally uncaring. We’ve heard about the impact of that lack of care on people’s lives, so to wrap up what do we need to do about it?

We’re addressing it at Reform UK, what would you like to see happen? Let’s just say right we’re going to do this and this. well firstly Richard, can I just say it’s absolutely fantastic that Reform UK are taking a really active interest in this and I think it’s something that you know is a credit to you. You know for actually taking this on, you know what a big effort it is, it is a huge effort, it’s a lot of research, that we’ve all been doing.

A lot of meetings regarding this and it’s such an emotive subject and we’ve seen the social devastation that this is causing across the whole family dynamic. What I would like to see is a much fairer system, that’s what I would like to see and that we want to be talking about 50/50 shared care as a starter, as a starting point.

I would definitely say 50/50 shared care of course was applicable yes? Yeah, 100% absolutely. I would like to see an automatic review now being carried out by anybody who thinks that their assessments are wrong. Not just they don’t like the assessments, but that they’re wrong. I would now like to see a full-scale automatic review of every single case. Yes, that will be expensive but it’s a justified expense and within a rapid time frame. Absolutely because that’s the other thing that struck me with all these cases is that it goes on and on not just for months but for years and years, sometimes decades.

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CMS Favour Enforcement over Mediation

It’s just mindboggling how this can happen and it can go on after the children have become of age, can still go on but Richard also as well you know, one factor that we’re not considering here is the cost to the taxpayer to run this department as well. We’re looking at about £300 to £400 million a year to run this department and so we should actually have mediation as a key factor as opposed to what the current system just seems to be.

Determination and there’s nothing you can do about it, determination and enforce is currently what we’re seeing at the moment. What we should have is mediation. It’s got to be mediation and it’s got to be means tested on both sides, so it’s fair and it’s equal to both parties involved.

Absolutely essential and of course we focused on armed forces personnel either serving or recently departed but actually there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands ordinary civilians basically suffering similar experiences.

Absolutely and you know it’s really serious and look we’ve heard from the DWP before when we got statements from them, but it just struck me as being their usual sort of wishy-washy, it’s all okay there’s nothing to see here TV.

CMS is Broken & is Breaking Families as a consequence

They don’t seem to understand actually what goes on in their own department. Don’t seem to understand it so they say things like can go to a tribunal. What actually happens is that while you’re arguing with the CMS and imagining that they’re taking account of what you’re saying, they’ve already gone and issued the liability order and then there’s no tribunal. We could go on for hours and days almost on this subject, it’s so big but look, a massive thank you to you and for those of you who’ve been watching and listening.

If you want to get in touch there’s a couple of addresses to get in touch with.

First is, that’s an organization dedicated to this issue and if you get in touch with them or alternatively if you contact us at Reform UK the email address hopefully will come up on the screen

This is a vital issue, another area where frankly the government administration department is utterly failing. We’ve heard it before I fear, we’re going to hear it again but we at Reform UK we’re utterly determined. This is a great nation, badly run, badly led. We can do so much better. Thanks for watching, we look forward to your feedback.