Child maintenance complaints waiting more than a year for investigations to start

Parents are having to wait more than a year for complaints against the embattled Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to be allocated to an investigator, the government has disclosed.

Responding to a written parliamentary question tabled by Labour MP Sir Stephen Timms, Chair of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, Junior Minister, Mims Davies, said that as of 23rd May, the average time taken from a CMS complaint being received to allocation to an investigator was 71 weeks – nearly a year and five months.

‘The rate at which complaints can be allocated to an investigator depends on a number of factors, including the volume and complexity of complaints received, as well as available investigative resource,’ Davies’ response said.

Official figures published last year showed that nearly 40% of parents who were supposed to contribute towards the upkeep of their children through the CMS were failing to make any payments, with performance worsening considerably since the pandemic.

Last summer the public accounts committee of MPs slammed the Department for Work and Pensions, which runs the CMS, for ‘achieving no more for children of separated families than under the previous, discredited Child Support Agency’.

Complaints regarding the CMS go through the Independent Case Examiner (ICE), a process that has several stages.

‘Post-Covid, ICE has seen an increased number of referrals accompanied by an increase in the number of cases it has accepted,’ Davies said in response to the parliamentary question.

‘In the year April 2021 to March 2022, there was a 17% increase in the number of complaints being referred to ICE and a 68% increase in the number of complaints being accepted for examination, compared to the previous reporting year. In 2022-23 ICE received and accepted broadly similar volumes of cases referred and accepted.’

Davies added that since April 2022, the ICE office had recruited 18 extra investigators, with five more staff members due to join from this July. These additional resources are to be focused on CMS work.

Image: Shutterstock


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