Photo credit: Scottish National Party (SNP).

SNP spokesperson for Equalities Angela Crawley MP has launched a petition calling for the UK Government to scrap the ‘cruel and callous’ tax on victims of domestic abuse.

The petition calls for the UK Government to remove the 4% collection charge on child maintenance payments that applies to parents using the ‘Collect-and-Pay’ service.

Payments made to the ‘Collect-and-Pay’ service are managed by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) and can be removed directly from the paying parent’s bank account.

The ‘Collect-and-Pay’ service also has enforcement powers available to ensure maintenance is paid on time and in full.

The CMS exempt victims of domestic violence from the £20 application fee, but do not make any exemptions from the monthly charges.

In response to a written question tabled by Angela Crawley MP, the UK Government said the charges are in place to encourage parents to pause and consider whether they require the ‘Collect-and-Pay’ service – encouraging parents to utilise the less bureaucratic ‘Direct-Pay’ scheme.

However, Angela Crawley MP stressed that the ‘Direct-Pay’ service does not offer the same protections as ‘Collect-and-Pay’ and can continue the cycle of abuse.

Commenting, SNP Equalities spokesperson Angela Crawley MP said: “Victims of domestic abuse should be protected by the UK government, not punished financially for their inability to engage with their abusive ex-partner.

“The UK government advises victims of domestic abuse that they should utilise the less safe ‘Direct-Pay’ scheme, which has no powers of enforcement and allows continued communication through bank transfers.

“The Tories have shown a complete lack of compassion by introducing this charge and even worse, they actually risk putting the lives of domestic abuse victim-survivors and their children in real danger.

“The UK government must look again at this unfair tax and listen to the cross-party calls to scrap it – ultimately, it will be the children that child maintenance payments are intended to support who will lose out.”

Marion Davies, Head of Policy at One Parent Family Scotland, said: “We really welcome this campaign by Angela Crawley MP. Children of parents affected by domestic abuse, often those most likely to live in poverty, are losing out on vital income.

“Child maintenance should be a right of every child if their non-resident parent has the income to contribute.”

David Bartlett, White Ribbon Campaign Chief Executive, said: “We applaud Angela Crawley MP’s initiative, which could make a real difference how safe it is for survivors of domestic abuse to claim child maintenance from the other parent.

“This will in turn help protect children from falling into poverty, and help ensure that maintenance is paid reliably and fully.”

Marsha Scott, Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “It may be a right for women to live free from fear and abuse, but it is far from a reality.

“We welcome this petition and would urge the public to get behind it to put an end to the 4% collection charge for victim-survivors.

“Women in general are disproportionately affected by poverty and paid labour market discrimination.

“Women experiencing domestic abuse face numerous additional challenges in leaving abusive partners, including being financially dependent.

“Child maintenance is critical for women’s financial independence, and to ensuring that they are not subject to further abuse that current policy – albeit unwittingly – colludes with.”

The petition can be signed here.

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