‘Supermums’ join forces with South Cambs MP over child support payments campaign as bill proposed in House of Commons

PUBLISHED: 12:58 02 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:01 02 May 2017

From left, John Glen MP, Melissa Santiago-Val, Jo-Anne Newman, Heidi Allen MP, committee chair Frank Field,  and Sue Young.

From left, John Glen MP, Melissa Santiago-Val, Jo-Anne Newman, Heidi Allen MP, committee chair Frank Field, and Sue Young.

Archant

A trio of single mums who are all volunteers with Royston and South Cambs charity Home-Start have joined forces with their MP to help bring about a House of Commons bill proposal to challenge existing leglislation around child support payments.

Melissa Santiago-Val, Sue Young and Jo-Anne Newman going to present to DWP Select Committee. Melissa Santiago-Val, Sue Young and Jo-Anne Newman going to present to DWP Select Committee.

Melissa Santiago-Val first enlisted the help of Heidi Allen after meeting at the Conservative MP’s surgery in 2015 about tax credits, which turned to a discussion about problems with the defunct Child Support Agency, replaced by the Child Maintenance System in 2012.

Ms Santiago-Val said: “The system is meant to agree and enforce payments for children when parents separate, but it has reached crisis point.

“It fails to deliver not just unpaid maintenance payments, but also leaves many legal loopholes. In the emerging landscape of both the gig economy and increasing self-employment, it is no longer fit-for-purpose with £4 billion in unpaid maintenance not collected.

“The ease by which non-resident parents can evade the current payments system puts incredible pressure on single parents dependent on former partners for financial support for their children, forcing them into debt and burdening an already stretched welfare budget.”

Jo-Anne Newman and Sue Young preparing their cases in the Palace of Westminster cafe. Jo-Anne Newman and Sue Young preparing their cases in the Palace of Westminster cafe.

Not only do these issues affect her own life, working mum Ms Santiago-Val regularly sees the financial impact on fellow single parent families – and the problems with getting financial support – in her work with families helped by Home-Start.

Ms Santiago-Val said that Mrs Allen quickly championed their cause, suggesting Melissa get a group of mums with different stories together to present as evidence to the Department of Work and Pensions select committee, so she joined up with fellow single parents Jo-Anne Newman and Sue Young.

With the South Cambs MP’s help, the ‘supermums’ – as she has called them – first appeared in front of the committee, of which Mrs Allen is a member, in March to give evidence about the ‘inadequacy of the current system’.

Their evidence was used by the committee’s report, published today, which says the new Child Maintenance Service must be prepared and resourced to automatically take over the more difficult or complicated child support non-payment cases from the CSA, and be toothier in enforcing payment – and it cited the mums in the report.

The group were determined to help the cause get discussed in parliament. The group were determined to help the cause get discussed in parliament.

It read: “In March 2016 we held a private meeting with three mothers. They told us that they not receiving the necessary fiancial support as parents with care from their ex-partners under 2012 scheme and were distressed by an absence of support from the CMS in pursuing maintenance payments to which they were entitled. The mothers were all concerned this threatened their ability to provide for their children.

“Their experience corresponded with cases we have dealt with on behalf of our constituents and have been sent to us as a committee.”

After further behind-the-scenes work by Mrs Allen and fellow MP David Burrowes, Mr Burrowes put forward a Ten Minute Rule bill proposal to change legislation for CMS, and mentioned the ‘supermums’ by name again in the House of Commons.

“We are doing it for our children, we want our children to have their support in place for their future,” Ms Santiago-Val said.

Melissa Santiago-Val and and Jo-Anne Newman preparing their cases. Melissa Santiago-Val and and Jo-Anne Newman preparing their cases.

“We would like to thank Heidi Allen in her vital support in getting this far.”

And fellow ‘supermum’ Ms Newman added: “Heidi has always been very approachable and clearly concerned by the experiences we have each endured with the CSA and later the CMS.

“Having listened to each of our experiences, Heidi worked quickly and has continued to work hard to include us in comments, edits and proposals at every stage – taking time to explain the parliamentary process too. Collectively we hope to make positive changes that will prevent other families in the future experiencing the adverse effects of the loopholes that have prevented many families receiving regular payments and to allow the CMS to schedule and enforce child maintenance payments from the actual earnings of consistent non-compliant self-employed parents.”

The bill will be read for a second time in the House of Commons on May 12.

To read the full report see www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/

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