House of Lords debate:

The Child Maintenance Service

Two children playing in the woods.

On 24 June, Lord Farmer led a Question for Short Debate in the House of Lords: "to ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to reform the Child Maintenance Service".

In preparation for the debate, he asked the public to share their experiences of the Service.

Many thanks to all 1524 people who responded to the survey.

Thank you:

In his speech, Lord Farmer described the main themes emerging from the public contributions – both from paying and receiving parents:

Full debate:

Several other members of the House of Lords spoke during the debate and put questions to the Government.

You can read the debate transcript on Hansard or watch it on Youtube:

The Government's response

Image of Whitehall

Minister for Work and Pensions Baroness Stedman-Scott responded to the debate on behalf of the Government.

 Watch or read her speech for details on topics including:

Public consultations:

The Department for Work and Pensions are seeking views on a number of proposed legislative changes to the CMS.

Find out more and submit evidence via Child Maintenance: modernising and improving our service.

Deadline: 6 August 2021.

The CMS is also currently being audited by the National Audit Office.

Find out more and submit evidence on NAO: Child Maintenance Service.

Deadline: 30 July 2021.

"My sincere thanks to everybody who expended much time and emotional energy in describing their experiences of the Child Maintenance System to inform how it could be improved.
"It has been impossible to do justice to the large number of stories you have shared but they have greatly increased my understanding of the challenges faced by separated parents and their families.
"Please do watch the debate either live or on catch up. The transcript will also be published on this page."
Lord Farmer

Introducing the debate, he gave the following statement:

"The payment of child support (‘child maintenance’) following divorce or separation is a vital part of ensuring both parents fulfil responsibilities to their children, even if they no longer live (or have ever lived) under the same roof.
"It’s hard to ensure any state-backed system works for everyone, especially in an area of life that can be fraught with sensitivities. At the end of the day, the need for one parent to pay the other often stems from the breakdown of an intimate relationship. Conflict and other relational difficulties often continue after separation.
"Children’s suffering when they are no longer able to live with both their parents is worsened if money is tight because one parent doesn’t contribute adequately.
"Such financial problems are also relationship problems which require different, additional solutions to those focused on the enforcement of maintenance liabilities. 
"I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss options to improve the child maintenance system in the House of Lords."
Lord Farmer

Portrait of Lord Farmer

What is a Question for Short Debate?

Four short debates ('Questions for Short Debate') take place on Thursday every five weeks in Grand Committee, away from the main chamber. Debates are an opportunity for members to discuss important current issues and draw the government’s attention to concerns. A government minister or spokesperson responds at the end to the issues raised in the debate.

House of Lords hybrid proceedings

The House of Lords made several changes to its procedures during the Covid-19 pandemic. This included the use of virtual sittings and sittings which featured both physical and remote participation.

Find out more: House of Lords: timeline of response to Covid-19 pandemic.

How your contributions are used:

In these exercises, your contributions are passed on to the Member leading the debate. They may refer to your stories directly in their speeches.

You can see past examples of these exercises below.

Get involved

Other debates, online tours, education resources and more

Image of House of Lords Chamber

Visit Parliament

Parliament is currently closed to visitors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but you can still attend a free tour or a talk virtually – visit our online talks and events page for more information.

Regular updates

For research, reports and other publications on policy areas of interest, subscribe to Topical Updates from the House of Commons Vote Office.

Contact a member of the House of Lords

You can contact a member of the House of Lords by issue or in relation to a draft law that affects you. Members of the Lords usually work on topics of particular policy interest or expertise.

Contact your MP

When you or people living in your area are affected by decisions made by the UK Parliament or by the government, you can contact your MP. MPs represent all the people in their local area, whether they vote for them or not.

Your UK Parliament newsletter

Sign up for a regular newsletter packed with the latest info on free activities online and around the UK to help you get involved and make a difference.

Education resources

Visit our learning pages for award-winning free education services for schools, colleges, communities and home educators.

Upcoming debates

You can see upcoming debates and other parliamentary business on Parliament's What's on page.

You can watch all debates on


This exercise is run by Parliament's Chamber Engagement Function. Please give us feedback.