On 21 April 2023, the second reading of the Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill is scheduled to take place in the House of Lords. It is a private member’s bill sponsored by Lord Farmer (Conservative). The bill was introduced in the House of Commons by Sally-Ann Hart (Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye) and completed its House of Commons stages on 3 March 2023. It received its first reading in the House of Lords on 6 March 2023.
Under existing legislation, the default option for receiving child maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is through the direct pay service. This requires parents to make a financial arrangement themselves. Some stakeholders, including the domestic abuse commissioner, have warned that use of these arrangements could increase the risk and harm posed to victims of domestic abuse because they have to ask the perpetrator directly for payments.
Therefore, the bill would amend the Child Support Act 1991 and the Child Support (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 to expand the circumstances in which either the secretary of state, or the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland, may arrange for the collection of child maintenance payments on behalf of the receiving parent (through the Child Maintenance Service’s collect and pay service) in cases where there is evidence of domestic abuse.
The government supports the bill. In October 2022, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published explanatory notes for the bill following its introduction in the House of Commons. In November 2022, the department published a delegated powers memorandum for the version of the bill introduced in the House of Commons. In March 2023, it published a revised delegated powers memorandum.
The government made several amendments to the bill during its report stage in the House of Commons to extend the bill’s provisions to the United Kingdom. The bill received cross-party support.