Abuse victims will be trusted, assure child maintenance service

    Abused women won’t have to prove their abuse to the Child Maintenance Service to receive their child support payments, a memo last week pledged.

    The circular was issued by the CMS last week to all social welfare office staff.

    It came after reports emerged in the Times at the end of last year about women being contacted by the CMS demanding that they pursue their ex-partners for unpaid child support.

    It then emerged that this put women at risk, who feared they faced a choice of having to contact their abuser or lose out on payments their family needed.

    In November, the Times published the story of one woman who left her partner after she was physically abused during the first trimester of pregnancy. She was granted one-parent family allowance but received a letter from the maintenance recovery unit at the Department of Social Protection requesting that she make “reasonable efforts to look for maintenance from the other parent of the child” within two weeks. She was told that failure to do so may lead to her one-parent family payments being terminated.

    Although she had provided the CMS with a court order which demonstrated that her ex-partner put her at risk. Spark, a support group for single parents subsequently revealed that they have been made aware of other victims of domestic violence who were put at risk.

    When the report caused a public outcry the service apologized explaining that it was the result of an administrative error in the overburdened department. To remedy this the memo sent out last week unequivocally stated that no domestic abuse survivor will be forced to evidence their abuse or contact their abuser:

    If a lone parent presents and states that theirs is a violent or abusive relationship he or she will not be expected to produce any documentary evidence in that regard. The condition to seek maintenance is to be regarded as satisfied,”

    The ONS have reported that an estimated 1.9 million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year.