Chapter 11: United Kingdom and the child support system
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Single parent families in the UK are at greatest risk of poverty compared to other families. Despite having similar employment rates to mothers in couple families, single parents face considerable obstacles in accessing affordable childcare and gaining sufficient employment to meet their basic needs, with around a quarter to a third experiencing in-work poverty. Childcare services and social security benefits (with welfare-to-work support) provide ineffective poverty safeguards. Enforcing the private obligations of separated parents to pay child support has long offered policy makers a tantalising alternative means to conjure up an additional income stream for single parent families. This chapter traces the changes to child support policy over time demonstrating how key policy shifts and U-turns have failed to produce the desired outcomes. It suggests UK policy has mostly operated in the realms of fantasy rather than practicality: it has consistently failed to tackle the challenges posed by separated families.

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