by Simon Hill, Child Maintenance Group, Department for Work and Pensions
The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP’s) initiative Help and Support for Separated Families aims to strengthen family life by making it easier for separated families to find and understand the support, relevant services and options available to them.
Help and support for separated families is crucial. A relationship break down can be an emotional time which impacts on many areas of life. The issues that people commonly face after separation differ between individuals but often cover finance, housing, childcare, mental health (of both parents and children) and access rights. But these issues may not always be obvious straight away.
The issues that separating families face inevitably make an impact on the services provided by local authorities, such as housing, social care, anti-social behaviour and educational attainment. Did you know, for example, that 49% of families in the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Troubled Families programme are lone-parent households?
The good news is that there is support available. Sorting out Separation, from DWP’s Help and Support for Separated Families initiative, is a free online resource for people who are dealing with divorce or separation that shows people where to find reliable information, and access easy-to-use tools and specialist services on a range of topics to tackle the biggest issues including legal, health and financial matters.
The information provided by Sorting out Separation is produced in partnership with a range of specialist support organisations including Citizens Advice for housing and money advice; relationship advisory service Relate and homelessness charity Shelter.
The site also lets users create a personalised list of support services and tools tailored to your own circumstances. And in December 2015, a ‘help near you’ section will be added to the website to help users find local and national services aimed at helping parents to work together to resolve disputes in the best interests of their children.
Another website, Child Maintenance Options (from the organisation of the same name) provides free, impartial information and support to help separated parents make decisions about child maintenance arrangements. The website offers tools and guides including a form for Family-Based Arrangement (in which child maintenance arrangements are arranged and agreed between parents) and a calculator to work out maintenance costs, as well as a live chat service.
Both of these websites offer reliable clear information and guidance which have been designed to enable visitors to self serve. Councils and local authorities can make use of these resources by signposting on their own websites, or in person – for example via social services, children centres or libraries where it has been identified that an individual is separating – to help even more families at this hardest of times.
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