Sinn Féin is calling for a special government agency to ensure non-custodial parents pay child support

Sinn Féin has called for the creation of a separate government agency to handle child support payments to ensure payments are made and received.

he would see child support treated as a way to “lift children out of poverty” rather than being a source of income, supporting single parents and keeping children “at the heart” of child support agreements.

Sinn Féin social protection spokeswoman Claire Kerrane said the party’s proposals are based on an existing system in Northern Ireland that “works fairly well”.

“The current situation is difficult for single parents, they have to prove that they have applied for child support in order to receive their income support, primarily the family support for single parents and the Jobseeker’s Transition,” she said.

She said the service would ensure single parent payments were “not only requested, but received”.

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) would then arrange for payments to be made by ‘collect and remittance’, with CMS collecting the payment from non-custodial parents and disbursing it to the other parents.

This would be introduced in cases of domestic violence or situations where non-custodial parents refuse to make payments.

Parents would also have the option to make their own arrangements, or if the parents cannot agree on the amount to be paid but agree that an amount should be paid, the agency would step in and decide on the amount.

“It’s really important that we have enforcement powers, it’s important that they have strong links with the IRS in the first place so that if a non-custodial parent is working that [the payment] can be deducted at source, be it from welfare or from earned income,” Ms Kerrane said.

She said that such a government agency could step in and examine the non-custodial parent’s income and determine an amount that is affordable for them.

The Department for Social Protection currently has a Liable Relatives Division which asks non-custodial parents for a contribution when custodial lone parents apply for the lone parent payment.

“That’s a contribution that’s paid to cover the cost of the state in actually paying the single parent payment in the first place, it’s not really about alimony,” Ms Kerrane said.

She said that between January 2020 and February 2021, 7,000 orders were issued by the Department for Social Protection’s Liable Relatives Division to non-custodial parents who had not made contributions. Sinn Féin is calling for a special government agency to ensure non-custodial parents pay child support

Fry Electronics Team

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