After considerable delay, the government finally introduced
changes to the child support scheme on 3 March. Any parent who
makes a new approach to the Child Support Agency (CSA) from that
date will be assessed differently.
If any parent on income support or jobseekers allowance (JSA) is
assessed under the new formula, then £10 of any amount they
receive through the CSA will be disregarded when working out their
benefit. Existing benefit cases will be transferred to the new
formula at a date to be announced. Until then existing child
support payments will still mean a pound for pound cut in
The new formula for calculating contributions is supposed to be
much simpler than its predecessor. The amount of maintenance due
will be based on the non-resident parent’s net income.
If this is £200 per week or more, the rates will be:
- 15 per cent of net income for one child.
- 20 per cent of net income for two children.
- 25 per cent of net income for three or more children.
If they have an income of between £100 and £200 per
week, child support will be reduced.
If the non-resident parent earns less than £100 or is on
particular benefits such as income support, JSA and incapacity
benefit, they will pay a flat rate of £5 per week.
If the non-resident parent has got children in a new family
(including stepchildren), their net income figure will be reduced
by 15 per cent for one child, 20 per cent for two children and 25
per cent for three children. So how might this work?
Nigel and Sue are divorced. Their two children live with Sue. Nigel
lives with his new partner, Lucy, her daughter, and a son they have
had together. Nigel’s net weekly income is £400. Because he
has two children living in his current family, his net weekly
income is reduced by 20 per cent (£80) before his child
maintenance is worked out. Child maintenance is 20 per cent
(because he has to pay for the two children with Sue) of £320
(£400-£80). Thus Nigel has to pay £64 a week.
The child support calculation will not take into account the income
of the “parent with care” (Sue, in the example), the income of
either parent’s current partner (Lucy), housing costs, and
The CSA will reduce child maintenance by one-seventh for each night
of the week that a non-resident parent looks after a child. If care
of a child is shared equally between both parents, child
maintenance will be reduced by half and then reduced by another
£7 per week per child.
Again from our example, Nigel is assessed to pay £64 a week.
However, his child stays with him two nights a week on average.
This means that his contribution is reduced by two-sevenths, which
is £18.28. His assessment then becomes £45.72.
If Sue is on income support, she would therefore lose £35.72
from her benefit. If Sue is working, however, and claiming tax
credits, none of the money she receives from Nigel will count as
– For more information, contact the Child Support Agency
information service on 0845 600 6610 or www.csa.gov.uk
Gary Vaux is head of money advice, Hertfordshire Council.
He is unable to answer queries by post or telephone. If you have a
question please write to him c/o Community