Ipswich: Charities worried about impact of Government plan

Thousands of youngsters could lose out on vital cash if Government changes to child maintenance get the go-ahead, charity chiefs have warned.

Barnardo’s and Gingerbread say plans to charge parents to use the Child Support Agency (CSA) – or more likely its successor – could deny money to up to 2,100 Ipswich children.

The agency currently calculates and collects child maintenance money from separate parents. �2,597,000 was delivered to Ipswich families in the year to June.

But the Government wants separating parents to find a settlement on their own, leaving those that insist on state help to pay a fee.

The plans include charging parents around �100 to open a case and �20 to calculate money owed.

Gingerbread, a charity for single parents, said the changes could mean Ipswich’s 2,750 separated families are left without support.

Fiona Weir, chief executive of Gingerbread, said: “The Government says it wants to help separated families but CSA charges would rip money away from families who can’t manage without it.

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“The average child maintenance amount is now �22.50 per week through the CSA. That’s significant money for thousands of single parent families in Ipswich whose budgets are battered by austerity cuts.”

Neera Sharma, from Barnardo’s, said: “We are calling for the Government to abandon its proposals to charge upfront and ongoing fees to families living on low incomes.”

But the Government says letting parents make their own maintenance arrangements will free up the state to target those unwilling to make payments.

Latest figures show 77,320 children are benefiting from payments collected or arranged by the CSA in eastern England.

Maria Miller, work and pensions minister, said: “Most separated parents want to support their children without interference from the state.

“Our reforms will help and reward parents who make collaborative, family-based arrangements and free-up the state service to chase those who do not meet their financial responsibility.”

The Government says it costs �460million a year to run the CSA, which is expected to be axed next year and replaced with a new organisation.

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