Lack of reforms to Baby Upkeep Service leaving girls ‘fearing for his or her lives’

Women who fear asking abusive ex-partners for child support have been waiting for more than two years for the government to review the Child Maintenance Service, whose “system failures” are again blamed for brutalizing their ex-wives on a mother murdered in May 2017.

The Domestic Homicide Review warned in March 2019 that urgent action was needed to improve the CMS after it was revealed that Emma Day, a 33-year-old mother of two young children who was brutally murdered on the street by Mark Morris, has failed completely Has. her ex-partner and father of her second child in May 2017.

He had repeatedly threatened her with life and warned her not to pursue him for child support. She told several CMS staff about the danger to her life, but they still applied for £ 1,277 child support for her daughter to Mr Morris. Ms. Day was stabbed to death days later when she was walking home from a school run.

The review of Ms. Day’s death concluded that the CMS’s management of Ms. Day’s case was “inadequate” and “the CMS’s current response to domestic violence abuse may increase the risk for victims of child support claims could”.

It continues: “The CMS procedures, including risk management by an alleged perpetrator and staff training, are inadequate. There is an urgent need for action. “

There has been no independent review, and now Coroner Andrew Harris has made an urgent call to the government to address the service’s shortcomings.

His report of the investigation into the death of Ms. Day, released this month, was sent to Secretary of State Therese Coffey, the Metropolitan Police, the Home Office and the Department of Justice, stating “A public body has an obligation to minimize risks” when there is evidence of a mortal danger. “A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions responsible for the CMS said I this week that “details of an independent review will be set out in due course”.

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“My ex is using the child support system to keep abusing me”

But for thousands of mothers, it’s just another case of words and not actions. Ms. Day’s sister Lorna McNamara told the story I: “I don’t see how they get away with it. It’s too late for Emma, ​​but it’s not good enough for other women in the same position. “

I spoke to a number of other women who were afraid of reaching out to the CMS to pursue unpaid child support payments for children of violent exes.

Becky * will not call the CMS about missing maintenance payments. “I stopped contacting her in 2018 after feeling violent when I presented evidence my ex lied about his income so I could switch to the ‘collect and pay’ system (where the CMS Forwards payments from one parent to the other). . I was shocked when my ex wrote threatening emails. I’m still scared of him – he attacked my husband in 2019. But it feels like my responsibility is to persecute someone who is being abused. “

Another mother, Jane *, reveals how scared she is of her ex when she calls the CMS twice a year.

“They always ask ‘Do you know where he lives?’ I declare for the umpteenth time that I am not doing it because he attacked me and my son when he was a baby. It’s like they’re following a script. You get the feeling that they don’t care, ”she says.

These women aren’t the only ones feeling abandoned. A spokeswoman for Women’s Aid said the charity had repeatedly raised concerns. “This focus on getting parents to work on a maintenance arrangement that is coercive is dangerous. And if a domestic violence abuser is charged a 20 percent fee (non-resident parent fee), it will likely increase their anger and potentially put the victim at greater risk. “

Nicola Sharp of the charity Surviving Economic Abuse added, “Two or more requests to the CMS in cases where domestic violence has been detected should automatically be a cause for concern. Employee training should take into account the increased risks associated with the challenge of male entitlement to money. “

A DWP statement said: “Our thoughts stay with Ms. Day’s friends and family. Child Maintenance Service takes the safety of all of its customers very seriously and has significantly strengthened its processes to ensure that customers experiencing domestic violence are supported and can establish a safe childcare arrangement.

“We continue to keep all of our processes and training up to date and review them against best practices.”

Marion Fellows, SNP whip and shadow speaker for disabilities, led a parliamentary debate in January of this year and stated: “The Child Maintenance Service was and is a fundamentally broken system that requires urgent action through a thorough review.

“Despite calls from across the Chamber, One Parent Families Scotland and Gingerbread, the necessary changes still need to be made. Almost 750,000 children across the UK rely on the CMS. Parents are so dissatisfied with the CMS that four parents, supported by Gingerbread, Mumsnet and the Good Law Project, apply for a judicial review as part of the #FixTheCMS campaign.

“It is a bad reflection of the efforts and priorities of this government that parents have had to resort to this approach. For years this government has ignored warnings that the Child Maintenance Service is completely unsuitable for this purpose. “

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

How the Emma Day childcare service failed

The murder of Emma Day was followed by a series of increasingly heated arguments over a maintenance claim of £ 1,277 a year for the six-year-old daughter she shared with Mark Morris, during which Mr Morris repeatedly threatened to kill Ms. Day if she did not renounce the claim.

The coroner’s report after her death contained evidence that Ms. Day had repeatedly reported that her ex-partner had threatened her with child support, “which strongly implies that her life would be in danger if she continued with the maintenance claim.”

But instead of giving this information to Ms. Day’s case worker, the CMS officer who received her call on Jan.

On the same day, a separate CMS officer reinstated Ms. Day’s child support claim from Mr. Morris, although Ms. Day also specifically stated that her previous application had been canceled “because he was threatened”.

The coroner’s report concluded that the threat to police from
the CMS this may have resulted in
another finding, highlighting serious problems including inadequate staff training and the lack of a system to deal with concerns about potentially fatal domestic violence caused by child support claims.

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