Raise the statutory child maintenance in London to £100 a week!
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I wish to call your attention, in connection with the foregoing, to what I understand to be a child maintenance legislation deficiency in the United Kingdom (‘’the UK’’).
Article 25 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that ‘’Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing’’; ‘’Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance’’.
To calculate child maintenance there are five statutory rates in the UK, based on the amount of the paying parent’s gross weekly income- Default, Niil, Flat, Reduced and Basic Rates.
If a paying parent gets one of the state benefits, the Flat Rate of child maintenance will usually apply and a fixed weekly amount of £7 will be paid by the paying parent. This is usually taken direct from the benefit. Only one £7 payment will be taken each week, no matter how many children are involved in the case. A daily amount of £1 is an amount that the government believes is a fair financial support that helps towards a child’s everyday living cost anywhere in the UK, including London. If the payment is not made in full by a paying parent, the 4% collection fees administered by Child Maintenance Service apply to a receiving parent. As result, the child maintenance funds drop under £1 a day.
The Default Rate applies when the parent’s income is unknown. In such case a paying parent pays fixed amount of £38 for 1 child, £51- for 2 children, £61 -for 3 or more children. A parent with income below £7 a week does not pay child maintenance at all (‘’Niil Rate’’). A parent with gross weekly income between £100.01 and £199.99 pays ‘Reduced Rate. For those earning between £200 and £3,000 gross weekly, pay accordingly to Basic Rate.
These rates apply in cases when there has been no possibility to arrange child maintenance using a family-based arrangement between the parents.
I am a lone -parent to 16 months old and living costs in Inner London are as follows:
- 2 -bedroom property rent £1,233 pcm
- nursery fees £1,690 pcm
- a pack of nappies £12.50
- a Formula milk £ 10
- a jar of baby food £ 0.75
- occasionally childcare /babysitter - £10 ph
Having said above, I wonder what type of child’s costs is £1 supposed to cover? For £1 a day my 16- months old child can have either a) 1 nappy and 1 jar of baby food, or b) 10 min nursery attendance and no nappies, or c) 5 nappies and no food etc. Such fees, as utility and food bills, clothes, vitamins and travel come as an extra.
Families with individual income over £60,000 pay a tax charge at 100% rate, known as the ‘High Income Child Benefit Charge’’. This applies also to a lone- parent families without exception. As such, the families are not receiving this benefit. While household income of £60,000 a year may be considered as high in some regions of the UK, it cannot be compared in the same way in London. For instance, a benefit cap for families with children in London is £23,000 a year, while living outside London - £20,000 a year, though neither statutory child maintenance formula, nor High Income Child Benefit Charge relate to any geographical criteria in the UK.
Recent research by Trust For London shows that nearly 60% of children in London are in households with incomes below Minimum Income Standard, compared to 45% in the UK as a whole. Children in lone- parent households are at particular risk of being below this level (over 80%). Londoners need to earn between 40% and 70% more than households outside of the capital in order to reach a minimum socially acceptable standard of living . It also shows that a lone -parent family’s weekly budget must be £725 in Inner London and £693 in Outer London (with a child’s age 0-1). There are around 2,000,000 lone parents in the UK. The proportion of families with children headed by lone parents has remained at around 25 % for over a decade.
Having said that I wonder how many lone parents to the child under 1 in London do actually earn/ are able to earn more than £ 725-693 a week?
For instance, if one of the child’s parents dies, other parent is entitled to Widowed Parent's Allowance of maximum £113.70 a week. In cases, where the child’s parent has left the family and is completely absent from the child’s life (though technically counts as ‘’alive’’), other parent is not entitled to this benefit. Above benefit helps widowed parent towards household costs and replaces a part of the income that ceased parent would have brought to the family budget. Children in a lone -parent families with permanently absent parent are no way different from those who have lost a parent due to illness or accident as they experience the same loss and trauma. If an absent parent is not involved in the child’s life whatsoever, then a child should be entitled to government support equal to Widowed Parent's Allowance.
In other countries, such as Luxembourg lone- parents paying tax are entitled to €750 tax credit each year. Parents receive family allowance on a monthly basis € 265 per child. For example, children in Latvia are entitled to about 3 times larger amount of statutory maintenance than children in the UK while the UK’s National Minimum Wage is about 2,5 times larger than in Latvia. Latvia adopted statutory minimum child maintenance of €95 pcm which is equal to 25 % of the National Minimum Wage of €380 pcm (children 0-7year-olds). Also in many other countries child benefit is granted to all the children, notwithstanding with their parents’ income level.
In case of non-payment of child maintenance by the absent parent, child support is guaranteed directly by the state in Austria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Sweden. It is guaranteed by special bodies indirectly governed by the state in France (CAF), Slovakia and Belgium (SECA or DEVO). It is guaranteed by local authorities in the Czech Republic, Denmark and Finland. It is guaranteed by special funds in Latvia (Maintenance Guarantee Fund), Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal. It is guaranteed by special agencies in the Netherlands.
Now about the enforcement mechanisms, that can, in my judgement, be created in following ways: revoking or withdrawing such parent’s driving license or business licence, publicly shaming / naming, or denying his/her access to certain public services, cross border restrictions. Sharing information with credit rate agencies would decrease such person’s credit score and ability to borrow any funds until the child maintenance debt is settled.
The consequences of a lone parenthood are varied, but overall, it has been observed that lone-parent families are in a more difficult socio-economic situation than two-parent families in the UK.
Children living in lone-parent households have a particularly high risk of being below Minimum Income Standard compared to children living in two- parent households.
No child in a lone- parent family should be discriminated in terms of a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being, including food, clothing and housing.
Child maintenance legislation in the UK requires immediate revision due to its inappropriateness from legal, economic and social points of view.
All statutory child maintenance rates have to be leveraged proportionally Minimum Income Standard in London and across the UK, for example:
-NIIL and Reduced Rates have to be abolished;
-Default Rate when the paying parent’s income is unknown – fixed minimum amount of £100 a week for 1 child; for 2 and more children – proportionally to the formula;
-Flat Rate when the paying parent is receiving state benefits- fixed minimum amount of £100 a week for 1 child; for 2 and more children – proportionally to the formula;
-Basic Rate- increase gross weekly threshold from £200 to £500 with max. up to £3,000 and calculate the child maintenance according to the current formula, but no less than fixed minimum amount of £100 a week for 1 child; for 2 and more children – proportionally to the formula.
The threshold for High Income Child Benefit Charge (100%) has to be increased from £60,000 to £100,000 gross annual income in London.
The 4% collection fees administered by Child Maintenance Service that currently apply to a receiving parent have to be abolished.
Additional legal remedies have to be introduced against the paying parents who do not comply with the child maintenance payments, such as driving license withdrawal, information sharing with credit rate agencies or denying person’s access to certain public services or cross border restrictions etc.
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