17 December 2013R.S. Chief Executive's Christmas Update

Chief Executive’s Christmas Update  

As many of us prepare for Christmas, we can reflect on a year of significant activity across the Relationships Scotland Network. First and foremost, we have supported many thousands of people across the country to improve their relationships with their families and to manage family change in ways that protect children and lead to more fulfilling lives. Over 20,000 people contacted services across Scotland, many receiving information, advice and signposting and others progressing on to relationship counselling, sex therapy, family mediation, child contact centres and a wide range of other forms of family support.


Over 1,000 people actively contributed to our work in 2013, including around 600 volunteers. We have over 200 practitioners and 112 people are currently in training; volunteer Board members supported the work of 22 local services; managers, administration staff and volunteers ensured that services are professionally run and that our clients received high levels of professional support.

The forming of our Strategic Funding Partnership with the Scottish Government has been a key development this year. The award of £3.5m over two years, shared across all 22 local services, including counselling services, was a significant achievement for the whole network and one which positions us very well for the future. The recognition of the Scottish Government of our vital role in supporting individuals, couples and families across the country is greatly welcomed and it testament to hard work done by so many across the network over many, many years.

The Review of the Relationships Scotland Network was also a highlight of this year. For those who took part in the 2 days in early October, there was a clear sense of shared values, hopes and aspirations for our work across the country, alongside a recognition of the strength we have when we work together positively for the benefit of families in Scotland. 

Going into to the New Year, many challenges remain. We are seeking new funding for child contact centres across the country; we would ideally wish to see the development of Parenting Apart Groups to further support our work with separating parents; a new Family Practitioner service would enable us to strengthen the support we can offer to the whole family, and we need to lay the foundations for a continuation of our Strategic Partner status with the Scottish Government.

For now, however, there is a well-deserved break to spend time with families and friends over the holiday period. On behalf of Pamela Gordon and the Board of Relationships Scotland, I would wish to thank you for everything you have done this year and to wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year. 


Best regards 
Stuart Valentine
Chief Executive


Help and support for child maintenance
Most parents want what's best for their children. That includes helping to support them financially, even when they're not in a relationship with their child's other parent.

Here you'll find out more about child maintenance and where you get more help and support.

What is child maintenance?
Child maintenance is usually money that the parent without the main day-to-day care of a child pays to the other parent. Child maintenance can make a real difference to children’s lives as it can help pay for things like clothing, food and other essentials.

But effective child maintenance arrangements don’t have to be just about exchanging money, they can also help to keep both parents involved with their children’s lives.

Arranging child maintenance with your child’s other parent
Over half a million children in the UK benefit from a ‘family-based’ child maintenance arrangement. These are agreements between both parents about who will provide what for a child.

They don’t have to be just about exchanging money – sharing the care of your children or buying things directly for them can also be included in a child maintenance arrangement if you both agree. 

Child Maintenance Options has a range of tools to help you make a family-based child maintenance arrangement including:

a family-based arrangement form to keep a record of what you have agreed,
• a discussion guide with tips and guidance to help you talk to the other parent,
• an online calculator based on the same rules that the Child Maintenance Service uses to work out child maintenance that can give you an idea of the amount that you could expect to pay or receive, and
• inspiration and advice from other separated parents and people we have helped.

Family-based arrangements aren’t enforceable by law. But if the other parent doesn’t keep up with payments you can go to the Child Maintenance Service or court to put in place an arrangement that is legally binding.

Call Child Maintenance Options free on 0800 988 0988* or visit the website at www.cmoptions.org.uk to find out more about making a family-based child maintenance arrangement.

Using the Child Maintenance Service
If you can’t make a family-based arrangement work you can apply for a statutory child maintenance case managed by the Child Maintenance Service – the new government service replacing the Child Support Agency from 25 November 2013.

You’ll need to contact Child Maintenance Options before you can apply to the Child Maintenance Service.  Call Child Maintenance Options free on 0800 988 0988* or visit the website at www.cmoptions.org.uk for more information.

The Child Maintenance Service offers two kinds of arrangement:

Direct Pay, where the Child Maintenance Service works out the amount of child maintenance a paying parent must pay. Both parents agree between themselves how and when the paying parent will pay the receiving parent direct.

If the paying parent doesn’t pay in full and on time the Child Maintenance Service can move the case to Collect & Pay and take immediate enforcement action.

Collect & Pay, where the Child Maintenance Service works out the amount of child maintenance to be paid, collects payments from the paying parent and passes them on to the receiving parent.

The government plans to introduce fees in 2014 for:
 new applications to the Child Maintenance Service
 using the Collect & Pay service, and
 enforcement action it takes against the minority of paying parents who don’t voluntarily pay in full and on time.

The government is proposing the fees and charges because it wants to encourage more parents to think about working together to arrange child maintenance instead of using the Child Maintenance Service or the courts.

Child Maintenance is changing

From 25 November 2013 the Child Support Agency will no longer accept new applications and from 2014 will begin to end child maintenance arrangements on its 1993 and 2003 schemes. If you are affected, you will get a letter up to six months beforehand, giving you a chance to put a new arrangement in place. Parents will be encouraged to think about making their own family-based arrangement, while those who can’t will be able to apply to the Child Maintenance Service.

Parents will be offered help and support through this change to help them make the child maintenance arrangement that’s right for them. We expect it to take about three years to contact every parent and end all CSA arrangements.

Help will be available from Child Maintenance Options free on 0800 988 0988* and at www.cmoptions.org.uk

More help and information
There is plenty of help and support available on a range of subjects linked to child maintenance and separation including housing, work and money from:

 Child Maintenance Options, a free and impartial service that provides information, tools and support to help separating and separated parents make informed choices about child maintenance arrangements,
Call 0800 988 0988* or visit the website at www.cmoptions.org.uk  and chat online with one of our consultants through our Live Chat service,
 the Sorting out Separation web app, which can help you work out what other areas you need help with as a separated parent
Visit www.sortingoutseparation.org.uk ,
 a new separation telephony network, which will be fully up and running by March 2014 as part of the Help & Support for Separated Families Telephony programme.

* Calls to 0800 numbers are free from BT landlines but you may have to pay if you use another phone company, a mobile phone, or if you are calling from abroad.

03 December 2013How separated parents can make the best of Christmas

Christmas should be a magical time of year for families, a chance to come together, open presents and have fun. For families who have gone through the turmoil of separation or divorce it can mean heightened emotions and stress as they try to do what’s best for their children, despite their separation. What starts out as good intentions can often leave children in the middle of a bitter tug of war.

So how can you ensure that you spend meaningful time with your kids over Christmas, even if they don’t live with you any more?

Manager of Relationships Scotland Orkney Helen Moss has some straightforward advice for separated couples who want to make sure Christmas is still special for their children.

“It’s hard for families who have enjoyed a special, magical time for years to suddenly be hit with the reality of a Christmas apart.

The biggest issue often is that every child wants mum and dad together for Christmas.

And it’s very traumatic for children to spend Christmas day away from one parent. They get very worried about that parent and feel very guilty.

And the problem, in high-conflict situations, is that each parent is adamant that the children will spend Christmas with them.”

Here are some tips and simple steps for divorced and separated families to take during a time of year when tensions and conflict can run high, to try to make sure Christmas contact goes smoothly.

Tell the children:
While this may seem obvious, lots of divorced parents avoid telling their Children how Christmas will be different this year until it’s too late. Don’t leave it until Christmas Eve. If they’re old enough, take this opportunity to ask your children how they’d like to spend Christmas with each parent.

Good communication with your ex-partner is vital:
It’s not just about Christmas day. The festive period can involve a lot of events, religious ceremonies and school activities. In mediation we try and get the parents to agree how far in advance they should communicate with each other so that if there is a clash of events, a compromise can be reached. If your child is in the school’s nativity play and you don’t tell your ex-partner until the day before that’s going to lead to conflict.

Break the Christmas period up:                                              Focusing purely on Christmas day can be counter-productive. In my experience one parent having the children for contact on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day while the other parent has contact on Christmas day can work well. Alternatively break up the big day itself - one parent has contact with the children in the morning of Christmas Day and the other parent has contact in the afternoon. Parents can rotate this yearly to ensure nobody feels left out. I’d advise that you only spend Christmas day together if you have an incredibly good relationship with your ex-partner.

With some forward planning and good communication Christmas can still be a hugely enjoyable and magical time for separated families.

You can find out more about the work of Relationships Scotland Orkney at www.orkneycommunities.co.uk/rso or www.relationships-scotland.org.uk or you can contact Helen or Zelda on 877750, or email enquiries@rsorkney.org.uk.

Relationships Scotland Orkney
Kirkwall Travel Centre
Wet Castle Street
KW15 1GU

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