Evaluation of the Child Maintenance Options Service

Ireland, Eleanor; Poole, Eloise; Armstrong, Cole; Keogh, Peter and Purdon, Susan (2011). Evaluation of the Child Maintenance Options Service. Research report 3; Child Maintanance & Enforcement Commission.

URL: http://www.natcen.ac.uk/our-research/research/eval...



We wanted to establish whether the Child Maintenance Options Service telephone helpline increased the likelihood of separated parents making arrangements for child maintenance.

What is the Child Maintenance Options Service?

Definitions of child maintenance vary, for this study it was defined as financial support that helps towards a child’s everyday living costs when the parents have separated. The Child Maintenance Options Service offers information and support to help parents make decisions about their child maintenance arrangements.


Overall, parents were positive about the helpfulness of the service. While positive results were achieved after just one or two short telephone calls, the service was most effective for those who had more in-depth and personalised contact with the service.

Maintenance arrangements

Around 7% of parents, referred by the Jobcentre Plus, who had more in-depth interaction with the service later made maintenance arrangements that they would not otherwise have had.

Parents who were more recently separated and where there was regular contact between the non-resident parent and the child and between parents, were more likely to have a maintenance arrangement in place eight to nine months after contact with the service.

There was some evidence that the service helps to ensure that maintenance is working.

Over two-fifths of parents who had some contact with the service did not have a maintenance arrangement eight to nine months later.


We conducted a telephone survey of a random sample of helpline users, between February and September 2009. A total of 2,767 parents participated in two research interviews: an initial ‘baseline’ and an ‘outcomes’ interview around six to nine months later.

We worked with freelancer Eleanor Ireland on this project.

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