New powers for the Child Maintenance Service to recover cash from non-paying parents faster.

  • Parents who wilfully refuse to pay maintenance for their children will face swifter enforcement action
  • £20 CMS application fee will be scrapped from 26 February so no child misses out 

The government is reforming the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to crack down on parents who refuse to pay and ensure children get the support they deserve more quickly. In October, the government consulted on measures to give the CMS more powers to recover money faster to crack down on parents who repeatedly fail to take financial responsibility for their children. 

On the 12 February 2024 the government has published the response to this consultation, confirming these reforms will be accelerated to make the system fairer for children and parents. 

The government is also removing the £20 application fee for child maintenance service and making all applications free from 26 February 2024, to ensure no child misses out on vital support.

Child maintenance makes a real difference to the life chances of many thousands of children, which is why we’re reforming the Child Maintenance Service for the long term to ensure we deliver a brighter future for them and their families.  

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride MP said: 

We know the vast majority of parents strive each and every day to give their children the best possible start in life. But those who shirk the financial responsibilities they have for their children must be quickly held to account. That’s why we are fast-tracking enforcement from six months to six weeks – making the system fairer for parents and above all for children.

The consultation also sought views on proposed regulations which mean the CMS can use an administrative liability order to recover unpaid child maintenance instead of having to apply to the courts.

This change will help reduce the time it takes to obtain a liability order, from around 22 weeks to as little as six to eight weeks – and ensure that further action such as forced sale of property or disqualification from driving can be considered much sooner.  Around 10,000 parents a year who wilfully refuse to pay maintenance will be affected by the law change, creating more financial security for thousands of children and parents.   

DWP Minister Viscount Younger said:  

The Child Maintenance Service makes a real difference to the lives of over 900,000 children across the UK, with CMS and family-based arrangements helping to keep around 160,000 out of poverty each year.

That’s why, alongside improving enforcement action, we’re removing the application fee so the Child Maintenance Service is accessible to everyone, meaning the poorest families can ensure their children are properly provided for.

They also include new powers for the CMS to write off debt worth less than £7 in a small number of inactive cases that would have been closed were it not for small outstanding balances.

This will ensure taxpayers’ money, as well as caseworker time and effort, is directed effectively. These powers, coupled with improvements to the liability order process, will allow the CMS to target swift action against parents who owe significantly larger sums and where the impact on households missing out on money is greater. More information for parents on how to make arrangements for maintenance payments can be found on the Get Help Arranging Child Maintenance tool:

Further information 

  • The government is proposing to bring into force powers that allow the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to make an administrative liability order against a person who has failed to pay child maintenance and is in arrears.     
  • Before escalating to the administrative liability order, which allows for tougher enforcement action, such as bailiff action and disqualification from holding a driving license, the CMS has other options including collecting earnings direct from parents’ employers or different bank accounts.     
  • The consultation response confirms that protections for paying parents will include a right of appeal to a court against an administrative liability order.   
  • The new law will apply to Great Britain and work is ongoing with the Scottish Government regarding implementation of devolved elements of the reforms.
  • Regulations to remove the application fee were laid in November 2023 and will come into force on 26 February 2024.  
  • Legislation to implement the changes to liability orders will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.
  • The full response is published here: