LONE parents in Northumberland are the first in the UK to benefit from a new scheme aimed at helping them sort out the right financial support for their children.
Staff at children’s centres in Ashington, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Lynemouth, Amble and Hadston – along with local midwives and health visitors – are at the heart of the pilot initiative.
They have been given special training on how to recognise warning signs that parents who have separated from their partners need help or advice with child maintenance issues. The training has also equipped them to be able to answer parents’ questions and point them in the right direction for further assistance.
The initiative has been launched amid claims that more than a million children living in separated families are missing out financially because their parents don’t have a maintenance arrangement in place.
The Ashington area was chosen as a pilot area after experts identified a local need for such a service. The aim is to roll it out to other parts of Northumberland, and further afield, if it proves a success.
The scheme has been organised by Child Maintenance Options, a national help and support service for parents, in conjunction with Action for Children, which runs the five Northumberland centres for the county council.
Under the scheme, parents who would prefer to talk to a Child Maintenance Options expert in person can be seen in their own home or another venue by a dedicated consultant.
Karen, a mother-of-two from Ashington, used the Child Maintenance Options service last year when she split up from her partner. She was struggling financially as she wasn’t receiving any financial support from him, or the father of her first child.
She said: “The person I spoke to really listened to my situation. For me, making sure I get regular financial support for the kids from their dads is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
“If local midwives and health visitors are able to tell mums like myself about the service, more will benefit.”
Alister Brown, from Action for Children, believes the increased support on offer in Northumberland will greatly benefit local parents.
He said: “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.” Janet Wojtkow, director of Child Maintenance Options, said: “We hope that by working with local experts in the Northumberland area we can raise awareness of how important it is for parents 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 is a free, confidential and impartial service. It can 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.
It can be accessed on 0800 9880988 or at www.cmoptions.org. Face to face consultations can be booked on 0844 8267867.