Politics.co.uk reveals that a secret data-sharing agreement allows the Home Office to access records from the Department for Work and Pensions Child Maintenance Group (DWP CMG) for immigration enforcement purposes. This agreement was uncovered through a seven-month Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
Particularly at risk are families that rely on the Child Maintenance Service, which ensures that financial support is provided by an absent parent. In some cases, it is used by domestic abuse victims who are unable to make a mutual agreement with their former partner. As undocumented migrants are unable to access benefits, child maintenance is sometimes the only source of income for parents who have no other income streams to turn to.
Frances Travena, from the Coram Children’s Legal Centre, said: “Data sharing between the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) and the Home Office will deter parents from using the service and allows non-resident parents to avoid taking financial responsibility for their child. It risks enforcement action being taken which is not in the best interests of the child involved, who may be a British national unable to demonstrate their nationality.
“Parents who turn to the CMS rather than reaching a private agreement are often victims of domestic abuse – closing off this route to support leaves parents and children more vulnerable to destitution and shifts the costs of caring for the child away from the parent responsible.”
The freedom of information request also asked how many requests for data the DWP has received from the Home Office. This information was not provided. The data-sharing deal between the DWP and Home Office mirrors the one between the Home Office, Department of Health and NHS Digital that is currently undergoing legal challenge by MRN.