Foreword

Family break-ups can be difficult and traumatic experiences for everyone involved, not least the children. Financial instability following a break-up is all too common.

If parents are able to work together in the interests of all family members, this can greatly reduce the strain and pressure of the situation. Many separated parents do make private, relatively amicable arrangements for the care and financial welfare of their children. This is the best option and the one to be encouraged. However, there will always be circumstances in which amicable arrangements are impossible. In these circumstances the Government provides a means for the financial welfare of children to be safe-guarded. The state-run child support scheme is a back-up for parents who are living apart and are unable or unwilling to make satisfactory private arrangements for the financial support of their children.

Government intervention for parents living apart can, however, exacerbate tensions between them, since externally imposed schemes are, by their very nature, less flexible than good private arrangements. I note that over a quarter of the letters I receive as Minister of Revenue are from people who are unhappy with some aspect of the child support scheme.

Even though it will never be possible to develop a child support scheme that satisfies all participants all the time, it is from time to time worth reviewing the scheme to see if it can meet the needs of the vast majority. In the 18 years since the scheme was introduced there have been significant shifts in patterns of child raising, workforce participation, the expenditure for raising children, and family law. Child support debt levels, mainly due to penalties, have also escalated considerably.

I therefore encourage you to express your views on the options suggested in this discussion document for improving the child support scheme. Your contributions will have a big influence on ensuring we have a child support scheme that works as effectively as possible, and for the wellbeing of our children.

Hon Peter Dunne
Minister of Revenue