Child Maintenance Research Report

As part of our latest debt research, we discovered 71.6% of single parents were struggling financially.

Keen to find out more about this statistic, we conducted a survey to research whether child maintenance could help single parents and if so, why were so many parents still struggling?

Over 1/5 of the single parents surveyed said they weren’t receiving child maintenance despite being entitled to it.
This is an eye opening statistic that caused some concern so we also asked whether they had a child maintenance arrangement in place. Over half (58.6%) said they didn’t know if they were eligible for child maintenance which shows a lack of understanding about the process. This was also confirmed when 31.8% of the parents stated that the child maintenance process was too complicated. As a result of these findings PayPlan created a child maintenance resource hub to help people understand more about what options are available. For example the Child Maintenance Service is not the only child maintenance arrangement available – a popular alternative is family based arrangements. We aimed to highlight this with our resources.

Other reasons the parents gave regarding why they didn’t have a child maintenance arrangement in place included worries about the legalities –22.4% of people were concerned about the formal process [associated with statutory arrangements] and the intervention of a third party. There were also concerns about the length of time taken to set up an arrangement (15.9% on average, although a higher proportion of men in particular – 35.7%). A statutory child maintenance arrangement, the most common arrangement that people are familiar with, can take between six weeks and three months to set up. A family arrangement however, decided amongst the parents themselves, can be set in motion straight away as there is no formal process.

In our survey we also looked at single parents who were in current child maintenance arrangements and what their opinion was of their arrangement. We discovered that the majority of people in arrangements opted for family based – 43.6% while only 15.4% were in statutory based arrangements. When asked why people opted for family based arrangement, some of the common responses we received were “because it was easier”, to “avoid admin charges” and it was “more amicable” to do so. Of those parents who had a statutory arrangement, some of the common responses as to why they chose this were “because my ex refused to pay” and because they had “no contact” with their ex-partner.

There is seemingly a lot of stigma surrounding the statutory child maintenance process but of the people who had been through the process, only 16.4% said using the Child Maintenance Service wasn’t an easy process. One of our aims with the resource hub is to raise awareness of the options available and how they work.

This survey was carried out by PayPlan as part of their child maintenance research in May 2016. If you wish to use any of our figures please ensure you credit us.