In May 2017, Emma Day (pictured) was stabbed to death by her ex-partner, Mark Morris, father of one of the two kids she had just dropped off at school. Morris had repeatedly threatened to kill Emma, warning her not to try to make him pay child support. Emma told the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) this several times, but still they pursued Morris for money. He murdered her a few days after the CMS reinstated its claim for money from him.
Two years on, a Domestic Homicide Review into Emma’s death recommended urgent reform of the CMS. Two years after that, the Coroner’s report into her killing has revealed that the reform has not happened. Women and children are still at risk. The report now sits on government desks, but women and children need action now, not the ‘review’ promised by the DWP ‘in due course’.
Thirty years ago, I and others were campaigning against the Child Support Act, knowing that it would put women and children at risk. Half of women claiming child support have experienced domestic violence.
The Act — and government policy ever since — is soaked in the gender stereotypes of mother as carer, father as breadwinner. Although it applies equally to men and women, regardless of which parent no longer lives with the kids, the law refers to the absent parent as ‘he’ and declares his responsibility to the child met so long as he pays money.