Letter on behalf of Malcolm Wicks

This was in response to a letter to Malcom Wicks, minister in the DWP
Here is a commentary on the letter shown below

DWP Department for
Work and Pensions

Adelphi, 1-11 John Adams Street, London WC2N 6HT
Telephone 020-7962-8000

Mr B Pearson
(address removed)
Our Reference: TO/02/10715
Date: 19 July 2002

Dear Mr Pearson

Thank you for your letter of 22 May to Malcolm Wicks concerning the shared care arrangements in the new child support scheme. I hope you will understand that due to the large numbers of letters received by Mr Wicks, he is unable to reply to all of them personally. I apologise for the delay in replaying.

Child support is based on the premise that both parents are responsible for the support of their children and that where parents live apart, one parent will tend to have greater involvement in the day to day care and support of the child than the other. In identifying which parent is the parent with care and which is the non-resident parent, the CSA is seeking to determine which parent is, to a greater extent, contributing both in cash and in kind towards their children's needs.

In the most clear-cut of cases, all the care and support will be provided by the parent with care. However, many non-resident parents will have some involvement with their children, even if the children spend most of the time with their other parent. This is why both the current and new child support scheme make allowances for non-resident parents who provide a material amount of shared care, by reducing the amount of child support otherwise due.

The amount of the reduction increases with the amount of day-to-day care provided. But as you will be aware, in cases where Child Support recognises that there is equal shared care, one parent will still be regarded as the non-resident parent and liable to pay maintenance. In the new scheme liability will exist although the maintenance otherwise payable will be reduced by half plus £7.

It may seem odd that in cases of equal shared care, one parent remains liable to pay maintenance. However, it should be remembered that the child support definition of care of a child only relates to overnight care, so there may be aspects of care which the CSA will not be called upon to consider. Therefore the Government believes that there are very few cases where care in its broadest sense is shared exactly equally, and it would not be possible to identify a parent who in some way has primary responsibility for the child. Such a parent is likely to be the one who receives Child Benefit.

The only possible alternative treatment would be to provide that no maintenance would be paid in equal share cases. However, since many parents with care receive benefits, this would mean that the taxpayer would end up supporting those children.

I hope this explains the Government's position.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Russell
Ministerial Correspondence Unit

Page last updated: 13 September, 2003 © Copyright Paul Russell 2002