In January 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions published a Green Paper entitled Strengthening families, promoting parental responsibility: the future of child maintenance.
Our response to that consultation focuses on two key areas – the use of HM Revenue and Customs data in child maintenance calculations, and advice to separating couples.
Using HMRC data
We participated in a working group in 2008, raising a number of potential problems as to the use of HMRC data which were left unresolved. We recommend that further detailed consultation should be carried out, which should consider:
- income assessment and data issues for the self-employed;
- how to deal with cases where HMRC data might be inadequate, perhaps not truly reflecting ability to pay;
- how unearned income features in the basic maintenance calculation, and what can be done to address manipulation of income;
- the processes surrounding the use of HMRC data, the parties giving consent for their data to be accessed and shared, and how calculations can be checked and queried;
- the potential for errors in HMRC data and the knock-on effects;
- testing of IT systems to ensure that the interface is robust before launch.
Advice to separating couples
Furthermore, financial considerations are paramount when a relationship breaks down, including the impact on the couple’s tax position and tax credits claim. Advice to separating couples must therefore include guidance and signposting to further help on both of these areas. In particular, we have seen problems arising with tax credits which could be avoided if full and joined-up advice were to be given. We recommend that the design of support services and guidance is consulted on in detail with interested voluntary sector groups.
We hope that the further consultation we suggest will be carried out as a matter of urgency, working with interested external groups.
Our full response is available using the link below:
LITRG response to January 2011 Child Maintenance Green Paper – PDF
Contact: Kelly Sizer (please use form at http://www.litrg.org.uk/ContactUs)