Dealing with government bureaucracy can be like wading through marshmallow, but the law is thankfully there to ensure that your complaints are heard. In one case, a hard-pressed father had the satisfaction of seeing the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) and a Secretary of State roundly ticked off by a judge.
The father objected to a CMS assessment that he owed more than £2,500 in arrears of maintenance in respect of his three children. He did so on the basis that he had been wrongly categorised as a non-resident parent. Having for years cared for his children under a shared residence order, he calculated that they had in fact spent more time with him than they had with their mother.
The CMS made a deduction order by which £34.82 was compulsorily taken from his bank account every week in order to pay off the alleged arrears. After the CMS and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions repeatedly failed to respond to his complaints, he resorted to the legal process.
Upholding his challenge to the deduction order, the judge noted that the case had exposed a sorry tale of years of delay and failed communications in relation to a modest sum of money. Since the arrears were alleged to have arisen, between 2007 and 2015, two of the children concerned had reached adulthood and the third was approaching that landmark. Despite all the father’s attempts to secure engagement in his case by the CMS and the Secretary of State, there had been none.
The judge expressed extreme disappointment that, regardless of repeated invitations to participate in the proceedings, no response at all had been forthcoming from the CMS or the Secretary of State. That being so, he allowed the father’s appeal on the basis of his unchallenged evidence and quashed the deduction order. The Secretary of State was ordered to reimburse the father £150 that had already been deducted from his account and £125 for his legal costs.