Members of the Mothers’ Union (MU) in Great Britain have delivered a petition to 10 Downing Street – the official residence of the UK Prime Minister – calling for changes to child maintenance rules for victims of domestic violence. Current regulations say that unless child maintenance payments are made direct to the parent with responsibility for bringing up the child, a four per cent levy is imposed under what is known as the “collect and pay” system. This “could force survivors of domestic abuse to engage with a former partner, the very perpetrator who carried out the abuse against them,” the Mothers’ Union said.
“Figures show that one in three applicants to the Child Maintenance Service has experienced domestic abuse,” the MU’s social policy manager, Rachel Aston, said. “Under this system survivors of abuse will pay an automatic four per cent levy, equivalent to an average of £130, which may not sound a lot to some but may be a tipping point for a mum who then struggles to pay for her child’s school uniform and PE kit for the year.
“The new system puts pressure on women to use the family-based arrangement, or direct pay, which may result in continuing contact with an abusive ex-partner.”
The campaigners left the Mothers’ Union’s Westminster headquarters, Mary Sumner House, this lunchtime (Friday) and marched past the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall before arriving in Downing Street.
Earlier , Mothers’ Union members from around the world lit candles and took part in a “Global Moment” to stand alongside and support and pray for the millions of women who suffer domestic violence in its many forms, which has reached endemic proportions in many parts of the world.
“Mary Sumner, who founded the Mothers’ Union 140 years ago, refused to accept injustice for women,” the MU’s CEO, Bev Jullien, said. “Similarly, in this generation, women, families and communities are suffering because of practices that fuel prejudice and result in hardship for thousands of vulnerable women.”
Today’s activities form part of a major Mothers’ Union campaign, to shine the light on gender based violence [GBV] with the clear message that “It’s Not OK.” The campaign will highlight the many forms that GBV takes from controlling behaviour by a partner to rape as a weapon of war.
Globally, the campaign will call on governments and leaders to ensure that national, local and customary laws prohibit all forms of violence against women. The campaign will also call for survivors to have access to justice and support services, and that perpetrators are prosecuted.
“I have been in that position, and it can be hard to manage on a limited income,” one mother told the MU. “My ex told social services that he gave the children pocket money and this amount was promptly taken from my support. I lost out and he thought it funny.”
Another mother said: “I know how long it takes in many cases of relationship breakdown for any chance at respectful communication to take place and it is certainly not right at the beginning when maintenance arrangements are needed.”
The march and presentation to 10 Downing Street took place on the first of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against gender based violence.