Family Law Inverness Latest News

Latest family law and divorce news and updates from Family Law Inverness. Telephone: 01463898650

Child maintenance changes receive Parliamentary backing

The UK Parliament has passed Government plans to introduce charges for single parents who need to use the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS), says single parent charity Gingerbread.

The Government wants separated parents to come to their own private arrangements, without using the new Government service. Crucially, it will be closing all existing CSA cases – almost one million of them – and says that charging to use the new service will ‘incentivise’ parents to collaborate in this way.

The Department for Work & Pensions will introduce a £20 application fee to access the CMS and get a maintenance calculation. If the other parent fails to pay maintenance, parents with care of their child face losing 4% of every payment for their child in collection charges if the new service has to step in to collect the money.  Those parents who fail to pay maintenance will be charged an additional 20% ‘collection fee’ on top of their children’s maintenance, which the Government will keep. 

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Many single parents are out of work

Of the 1.8 million single parent households in the UK, 650,000 – almost one in four  – are not in any sort of work, with the average single parent household claiming twice as much in benefit support as the average two parent household.

A new Policy Exchange report says that the proportion of lone parent households UK is the fourth highest in the EU – trailing only Estonia, Latvia and Ireland.

The paper found that the level of unemployed single parents can partly be attributed to when they had children. Over half (52%) of lone mothers who had their first child as a teenager (16-19) are not in work or looking for work, compared to 40% who had their first child aged 20-23 year olds, 29% of those who had their first child aged 24-29 and 19% who had their first child in their early thirties.

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Many new foster families needed across the UK

New figures released by the Fostering Network have revealed that at least 8,600 new foster families are needed across the UK during 2014 to provide stable, secure and loving homes for the record numbers of fostered children.

Looking at the figures in more detail, they show that an additional 7,000 foster families are needed in England, 200 in Northern Ireland, 850 in Scotland and 550 in Wales during 2014.

More foster families are particularly needed to provide homes for teenagers, children with disabilities and sibling groups. Around 38,000 of the young people in care in England are aged 10 or older, and over 2,000 children with disabilities are currently in care because their parents couldn’t fully support their needs at home. Last year around 450 fostered sibling groups in England were separated, where the aim was for them to live together.

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Calls to keep child maintenance out of benefit calculations

Single-parent charity Gingerbread has called on English councils to keep child maintenance out of council tax support calculations, claiming that low-income families will be significantly worse off if this is not done.

According to the charity, there are four main reasons why child maintenance should be left out of council tax support calculations. It argues that including maintenance will:

- Increase the risk of child poverty among single parents – whose children are already twice as likely to live in poverty.

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“Invest to save” in support care and keep families together

Local authorities in the UK should invest in support care schemes as a cost-effective way of supporting families and keeping children out of more expensive full-time care, the Fostering Network has urged.

The charity’s call comes with the publication of new research by Loughborough University showing that support care, including the accompanying support services for families, has a far lower unit cost than the foster care it replaces and aims to avoid longer term.

Support care is short-term preventative foster care aimed at families in crisis with a view to avoiding a child being take into care full time and long term. Support carers look after the child on a part-time basis, for example one night a week or one weekend a month, for a time limited period. At the same time a package of other support services is offered to the family, giving them space, guidance and help to work through their problems.

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Children’s money at risk under child maintenance reforms

More than £300 million in maintenance was collected for children from April to June this year, vital support which single parent charity Gingerbread warns is at risk as the Child Support Agency (CSA) prepares for closure.

Existing cases with the CSA will be closed and parents will have to reapply to the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS), once case closure begins next year. Trials of the new scheme have already begun.

To reopen their case, parents will have to pay £20 up front and may face ongoing collection charges if the paying parent fails to pay and the CMS is required to step in.

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Shared parenting is a win-win-win situation

Shared parenting, with an equal standing of both parents, has been proved to be in the best interests of children, because they can stay in a meaningful relationship with both their mother and their father after separation or divorce, according to the International Platform on Shared Parenting.

The Platform recently held its first workshop where it discussed the best of evidence-based research and modern best practices on shared parenting.

Angela Hoffmeyer, initiator of the international cooperation, explained: “Across Western societies there is increased enthusiasm for shared parenting. Our aim is to raise awareness of the benefits of this living arrangement for children and to overcome reservations still prevailing in the legal system.”

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Adoptive parents to benefit from new funding

Adoption UK has welcomed the launch of a new scheme to support parents adopting harder to place children from the care system.

“It’s all about me” is a new social impact bond service aimed at finding, training and providing on-going support to adoptive families.

Out of the 5,000 children seeking adoption every year, 300 of these are recognised as harder to place either because of their age, ethnicity, or because they are seeking placement with siblings. The social impact bond will fund training in therapeutic parenting, fuller assessment of a child’s needs and round the clock support from social workers.

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