Refuge responds to the Independent Review of the CMS response to Domestic Abuse
Responding to the Independent Review of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) response to Domestic Abuse, Ruth Davison, Refuge Chief Executive Officer, said:
“Refuge welcomes this long overdue review into the Child Maintenance Service. Currently the Child Maintenance Service is not fit for purpose. Refuge repeatedly hears from survivors that perpetrators are evading paying child support and that the Child Maintenance Service is doing nothing to enforce the payment – forcing women and their children into financial hardship and poverty.
At least 60% of Child Maintenance Service claimants are survivors of domestic abuse, the system must work for them and not expose them to further abuse and insecurity.
Withholding child maintenance payments is a form of economic abuse and is often used by a perpetrator to exert further control over a survivor post-separation. This has been allowed to happen for too long, so it is welcome to see steps are finally being taken to address this.
Refuge supports proposals to change the law so that more survivors of domestic abuse can use the Collect and Pay scheme, which ensures survivors do not need to have direct contact with perpetrators on child maintenance arrangements.
However, the review is a missed opportunity to truly transform the Child Maintenance Service. Refuge calls for all fees connected to the Collect and Pay scheme to be waived – survivors of domestic abuse should not be punished through deductions from their child maintenance whilst trying to protect their own safety.
Refuge is also concerned about troubling language around ‘bi-directional’ abuse used in this report, which appears to suggest that survivors may be to blame for the abuse inflicted on them and minimises the role of the perpetrator. Refuge calls for enhanced mandatory training on domestic abuse for all Child Maintenance Service staff, and this training should be provided by external specialists to ensure the Child Maintenance Service is no longer used as tool by perpetrators to further abuse.”