Child Maintenance Service - variations for Special Expenses

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Dear Child Maintenance Service,

1. Please provide copies of all of your internal and external policies and procedures regarding Special Expenses Variation applications.

2. Please provide the number of applications for Special Expenses variations from Paying Parents that you received either in the calendar year 2016, ideally broken down by month, but a total figure will suffice if you are unable to provide a broken down figure

3. Please provide the mileage rate (pence per mile) that your own employees may claim on expenses when on Child Maintenance Service or DWP business related trips.

4. Please provide your expenses reimbursement policy for employees who use public transport when on Child Maintenance Service or DWP business related trips.

Please reply publicly through the WhatDoTheyKnow website rather than replying privately to me.

Yours faithfully,

G. Harrison

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Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

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Dear G Harrison
 
Please find attached our response to your recent Freedom of Information
request.
 
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
DWP Central Freedom of Information Team
 
 
 
 

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Dear Operations FOI Requests,

Thank you for replying.

Please:

1. In Annex E Contact Costs.pdf it states:
"If the non-resident parent does not know the cost of the journey then you can use the
average fuel costs guidance based on the mileage the non-resident parent travels.
The average fuel costs guidance can also be used if the non-resident parent
provides an amount which you (or the parent with care, when invited to make
representations) consider unreasonable or excessive.
HM Revenue & custom: Company cars - advisory fuel rates from 1 September 2013
HMRC guidance under Company Cars - Advisory Fuel Rates for Company Cars
under the current rate link. According to the site, there are three rates according to
engine size."
Please provide the legislative or regulatory basis for this part of your policy that says you should use HMRC advisory fuel rates for company cars rather. For clarity I am looking for the legal or regulatory basis on why your policy uses the company car fuel rates and not the personal car fuel rates also provided by HMRC.

2. In response to my request:
"2. Please provide the number of applications for Special Expenses variations
from Paying Parents that you received either in the calendar year 2016,
ideally broken down by month, but a total figure will suffice if you are unable to
provide a broken down figure "
you provide a table of figures for which I am grateful.
You also provide a link
"https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics...
which you preface by saying
"Figures have been provided to November 2016, the last month for which published figures on CMS are available; these published figures can be accessed online at: "
however this link does not work.
Whilst I appreciate that the government website you link to is outside your direct control I am accessing the link on the day that you have provided your response and therefore I would ask you to provide a working link or a copy of the information to which you refer as it is not currently publicly available.

Yours sincerely,

G. Harrison

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

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Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

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Dear Mr Harrison.
 
Please find attached the reply to your recent Freedom of Information
request reference number IR242:
 
Thank you,
 
DWP Freedom of Information Team
 
 
 
 

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Dear Operations FOI Requests,

Thank you for responding. I appreciate it.

I have a couple of areas with your response that I would like to see clarification on as your answers seem somewhat opaque on detail.

1. In your response you say:
"...if the average fuel cost is considered excessive..."
Please provide your policies and guidance on what constitutes "excessive". In other words please clarify what would trigger an assessment of "excessive" when a claimant submits a cost to you.

2. In your response you say:
"...The decision to use the Advisory Fuel Rates is a policy rather than legal or regulatory decision..."

The rates you are using are for company car use. HMRC themselves provide guidance on these rates and they say:
"When you can use the mileage rates: The rates only apply when you...: reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars"

Please provide any internal documents that relate to your organisation's internal and external discussions around the formulation of this policy including details of stakeholders involved or consulted, internal and external, and the relevant dates. I am specifically looking for documentation that supports the decision point for your organisation choosing to use company car rates and not personal car rates.

3. In your response you say:
"...The figures are developed and reviewed using data from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and data from organisations such as the Automobile Association..."
Please provide the dates of your last review of the data from the DoBE and IS, and the data from the AA that you are using to benchmark your figures against.
For private vehicles...
The AA's own figures show:
Depending on price of vehicle when new, age, and milage anything between 24.45p per mile to 211.70p per mile.
http://www.theaa.com/resources/Documents...
The AA also reference the HMRC rates here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio...
HMRC's figures show: 45p per mile for first 10,000 miles in a year and 25p per mile thereafter
https://www.gov.uk/expenses-and-benefits...

4. In your response you say:
"...It was not deemed appropriate to use the simplified expense rates for self employed..."
I am not sure why you have referenced rates for self-employed. My question specifically asked why you were using HMRC rates for company vehicles and not HMRC rates for private vehicles. Again, HMRC's own guidance on usage of these rates says "When you can use the mileage rates: The rates only apply when you...: reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars". Your own expense policy for your own employees allows claims using HMRC's private car mileage rates when using their private vehicles. Please review your response and provide an answer in relation to private car rates, not self employed rates.

5. In your response you say:
"...protection to ensure contact is maintained..."
Please provide any of your policies, procedures, or guidelines where you make decisions taking into account "protection to ensure contact is maintained" specifically with regard to claims for variations for Special Expenses.

6. Please provide the number of cases in so far in 2017 where you have specifically utilised the guidelines on "protection to ensure contact is maintained". In other words, how many cases so far in 2017 have you made a decision in favour of a claim where otherwise you would not because you have decided to protect and maintain contact?

I look forward to hearing from you

Yours sincerely,

G. Harrison

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

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G. Harrison left an annotation ()

there is another ongoing FOI request into why the CMS insists on using company car advisory fuel rates instead of personal car advisory fuel rates here:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/v...

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

1 Attachment

 
 
 
Please find attached our response to your recent Freedom of Information
request.
 
Yours sincerely
 
DWP Central Freedom of Information Team
 
 
 
 

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Mr A.J. Wilson left an annotation ()

In their response of 28th June, the Department of Work and Pensions says

"The legislation relating to allowable costs in Contact Cost Variations makes provision for the cost of fuel used in maintaining contact, as per Regulation 63(1) (b) of the CSMC Regulation 2012."

By way of contrast; " An MP undertaking a journey by private transport will be reimbursed in accordance with the rates set by Parliament and administered by HMRC"

So, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Agency considers that the rates "set by Parliament" (for private transport) and "administered by HMRC" are 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p per mile thereafter.

(http://www.theipsa.org.uk/media/184560/s...) - Section 9.17

One rule for them, another for us....

Jo Archer left an annotation ()

Is the difference really going to stop you going to visit your children? And do you have to deduct every penny from the money you contribute to putting food in their mouths? Have you stopped to think for one moment about what you are doing?

G. Harrison left an annotation ()

Hi Jo

I can see from your own FOI requests that you've been having issues with your NRP not paying what you think they should. I'm sorry you've been through that. We're not all the same.

In answer to your annotation, the legislation on claiming special expenses was brought in specifically to deal with situations where a RP had moved away and contact costs had dramatically increased as a result - mainly because research showed that in a great deal of these cases where the RP moves the willingness to share the travel stops very soon after the move.

I'm sure you will also appreciate that following an internal relocation by the RP contact is reduced and therefore the maintenance payments increase. This coupled with a refusal to share travel post-move leads to a situation where the NRP is paying hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds in maintenance plus hundreds of pounds in travel and overnight accommodation costs.

That is why the law was brought in.

Turning to the calculation itself, it was Parliament's intention during the debates on this that the costs were recoverable and that is indeed what the messaging from the CSA and now the CMS says. However, what they try to avid telling anyone is exactly how much of it is recoverable hence the need for these FOI requests.

It transpires that a NRP can only claim mileage (above a cost of £10 per week) at a rate of 10p-11p a mile. But this claim is processed against their gross income before the calculation for maintenance is done. In other words you calculate your mileage at 10p-11p per mile, then this is deducted from the gross salary, and then the calculation at 12%, 16%, or 19% is performed.

This means that a NRP is only being allowed to claim around 1p-2p a mile.

The same goes for overnight accommodation costs. Given a hotel bill of say £70 per night for say 2 nights per month (£140 per month), the NRP will only see a reduction of £22.40 in their maintenance.

I take your point about NRPs wanting to see the children and in my experience there are plenty of NRPs who travel the length and breadth of this country week in and week out to maintain contact, at the same time paying increased maintenance costs and being shut out of the day to day lives of their children. Most NRPs I meet care less about the money and more about contact - their challenge is when contact is obstructed or financially hampered they have no recourse but to try to claim back what they can.

Again, I'm sorry you have had the experience that you have had with your NRP and the CSA/CMS.

A W Liversage left an annotation ()

G Harrison - I found this FoI request as I also arrived at the same conclusions as you. NRP moves away, agreed plans to share travel start to unravel, the costs of maintenance are de facto maximised as nights at the NRPs home or even shared parenting is logistically challenging, if not outright impossible. And then although 'variations' are allowed, they are a tiny fraction of the actual costs incurred - adding to the financial burden for the NRP of a relocation decision unilaterally taken by the RP which the courts currently will not prevent unless there is an "exceptional reason".

You mention the parliamentary debates around variations for special expenses. I have reviewed what I thought were the debates around The Child Support Maintenance Calculation Regulations 2012 and can't find any specific mentions of variations. I would be grateful if you would cite these debates here for me so I can review them.

However, you may find the impact assessment interesting:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/sy...

"56. Where a non-resident parent has a period of shared care the existing regulations disallow contact costs for the same period, these cover, for example, travel costs or overnight accommodation. Under the proposed regulations they will be allowed contact costs."

"60. Allowing contact costs and shared care during the same period encourages regular contact between non-resident parents and their children."

But then later...

"171. Allowing contact costs as well as a reduction in maintenance for shared care during the same period will result in a small cost to the parent with care, although case scenarios have shown that the difference in liability is minimal."

The impact assessment goes into minute detail on the various scenarios for RPs and NRPs of changes to the child maintenance regulations, but nowhere does it discuss or consider the rates used for mileage - or the impact on the NRP of contact costs under any scenarios. This simply isn't assessed or considered with the existing variations pretty much carried over to the CMS with no assessment. Yet the costs falling on the NRP, as I guess you know, can be considerable.

More interestingly, the Child Support Fees Regulations 2013 - Equalities Impact Assessment - https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/sy... -
reveals that the resident parents are 95% women. Interestingly, despite this, gender isn't considered an issue...

"39. This inevitable gender impact is an important consideration for the Commission whenever a new policy is developed. The general justification is that our policies impact on the individual in terms of their client role, not as a result of their gender. For example, a key principle of the statutory scheme is that it requires a non-resident parent to pay child maintenance. The reasoning is that non- resident parents are living away from their children and cannot be assumed to be supporting them in the normal course of events. That approach is the same regardless of the non-resident parent’s gender."

G. Harrison left an annotation ()

Thank you for your annotation and for the links you have supplied, some of which I have seen.

Yes, the system is a nonsense and does nothing to support NRPs where a RP moves away. Indeed one could argue that it facilitates the move away by rewarding it with increased maintenance payments. It also rewards bad behaviour by a RP who is unwilling or refuses to do any of the travel by only providing a minute decrease in the maintenance payable.

It is frustrating that it has taken months of FOI requests to egt this information out of the CMS when they could quite easily publish it verbatim on their website or in their leaflets that they send out.

As for the policy on mileage rates another FOI request has turned up that this is merely a policy that the DWP and the CSA put in place because they considered it to be the fairest way to consider actual costs -the CMS merely inherited this policy along with the staff, buildings, leaflets, and standard letters that they also inherited when the CSA merely rebranded itself.

There was, so far as I can find, no debate on the actual rates to be used in Parliament, and it seems from the discussions on special expenses variations that Parliament was pacified with the notion that these would be deductible, and no attempt was made to examine the detail of this.

G. Harrison left an annotation ()

in fact it is in the earlier response in this thread.

I asked:

2. In your response you said “the decision to use the advisory fuel rates is a policy rather than legal or regulatory decision”.

The rates you are using are for company care use. HMRC themselves provide guidance on these rates and they say “when you can use the mileage rates: the rates only apply when you…reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars”

Please provide any internal documents that relate to your organisations internal and external discussions around the formulation of this policy including details of stakeholders involved or consulted, internal and external, and the relevant dates. I am specifically looking for documentation that supports the decision that supports the decision point for your organisation to use company car rates and not personal car rates.

they say:

"I am unable to provide you with the internal documents that you have requested as no such document exists. The decision to use HMRC Advisory Fuel rates was a Department for Work and Pensions policy decision. "

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/4...

G. Harrison left an annotation ()

Follow up FOI requests to this one that may be worth following:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

Mr A.J. Wilson left an annotation ()

All, you may find the following interesting in terms of Variations for contact costs. They look like they were introduced in 2000 (using a term called "Departures") in the following piece of legislation. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000...

During the Bill debates in the Commons, Angela Eagle (who was the Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Social Security (the predecessor organisation to the DWP) when the Bill was going through Parliament.

She had this to say

"we intend to extend the nature of contact-related expenses that we are prepared to recognise, albeit not as widely as amendments Nos. 82 and 226 propose. The allowance for contact costs in the departure scheme is restricted to travel-related costs only: that is, fares, petrol costs or tolls. No allowance is made for the cost of overnight accommodation. We intend to prescribe that non-resident parents with particularly difficult or arduous journeys will be able to claim the costs of essential overnight stays in appropriate cases. That is evidence of our commitment to shared parenting." That, presumably was the INTENTION.

The full debate is here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm...

So, the question becomes, does the current operation and policy of the DWP and legislation show a "commitment to shared parenting"? I think not.

G. Harrison left an annotation ()

Thank you Mr Wilson.

I can't find the proposed amendments detailed anywhere online and certainly not within that debate.

I would be interested to read the actual text of each of those proposed amendments that Ms Eagle is responding to. Do you perchance have a copy or a link to something online where these are detailed?

Mr A.J. Wilson left an annotation ()

G.Harrison,

I think the Bill being debated that day is located at the following link: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm...

The explanatory notes are here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm...

Looking back through the debate, the amendments relating to Special expenses for contact are the following:

"No. 82, in page 74, line 7, at end insert

`including the cost of travelling to work and expenses necessary in order to keep in work'.
No. 226, in page 74, line 7, after `made', add

`which expenses, for the avoidance of doubt shall include all costs, including unreasonably high travel costs, unreasonably high housing costs, travel to work costs, illness or disability costs'."

Here's what Angela Eagle said

"We intend to prescribe that non-resident parents with particularly difficult or arduous journeys will be able to claim the costs of essential overnight stays in appropriate cases. That is evidence of our commitment to shared parenting."

The VoiceOfTheChild.org.uk left an annotation ()

Both:

The CMS will not want you to have this set of full policies and procedures:
https://voiceofthechild.org.uk/cms-full-...

Hope this helps

Voice of the Child

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