News - Child Maintenance Options

Increased help for separated parents in the Northumberland area

06 January 2011

Parents in parts of Northumberland will be the first in the country to benefit from a new initiative designed to help them sort out financial support for their children.

Staff at Children’s Centres in Ashington, Newbiggin-by-the-sea, Lynemouth, Coquet and Amble along with local midwives and health visitors, are receiving guidance on how to recognise if a parent may need help with child maintenance issues. They’re also being given information so they can answer parents’ questions and point them in the right direction for more help. Over a million children, nationally, who live in separated families miss out from regular financial support because their parents don’t have a maintenance arrangement in place.

The initiative is being organised by Child Maintenance Options, a national help and support service for parents, together with Action for Children, which runs the children’s centres on behalf of Northumberland County Council.

Separated parents across the Northumberland area, who prefer to chat to a Child Maintenance Options expert in person, can also benefit from a dedicated consultant who can visit them in their own homes or another venue.

Alister Brown, from Action for Children, believes this increased support will greatly benefit local parents.

"Separation is an emotionally stressful time for both parents and trying to make critical decisions about what’s best for their children, can be difficult. If staff here can make their lives easier by giving them guidance and information on crucial issues like child maintenance then we will do everything we can to help. We also welcome parents being offered a face to face consultation, as many will benefit from this particular type of help."

Sarah, a mum and part-time support worker from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, used the Child Maintenance Options phone service after she split up with the father of her two young children.

"The lady I spoke to at the Options service was wonderful. Obviously I had my friends and family to talk and off-load on, but I found it good to speak to someone impartial. She put me at ease and spent a long time listening to my situation."

Sarah and her ex partner have a reasonably good relationship so they decided to set up an arrangement between themselves without having to use the Child Support Agency. Child Maintenance Options was also able to give Sarah information on other issues relating to separation, details of useful organisations and she was sent a range of useful leaflets.

Child Maintenance Options is free, confidential and impartial service offering parents information on how to make their own family-based maintenance arrangements and talks them through their other choices. Child Maintenance Options experts can also help parents work out the amount of maintenance they could pay or receive as well as giving them tips on how to negotiate with their ex. The service can be accessed by phone (0800 988 0988) or Face to Face (consultations can be booked on 0844 8267867).

Janet Wojtkow, Director of Child Maintenance Options, believes there are clear benefits to having a financial arrangement in place.

"When parents are dealing with all the emotional and practical issues that come with separation, sorting out how your children are going to be financially supported can easily be overlooked. We hope that by working with local experts in the Northumberland area and offering local parents a chance to talk to someone face to face, we can raise awareness of how important it is to have a child maintenance arrangement that works for them. Children are far better off when both parents pitch-in both emotionally and financially."

Child Maintenance Options hopes, in the future, this additional local support may be rolled out across other parts of Northumberland.

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