PARENTS in parts of Northumberland will be the first in the country to benefit from a new scheme to help them sort out financial support for their children.
Staff at Children’s Centres in Lynemouth and Hadston, as well as those in Ashington, Newbiggin and Amble, along with local midwives and health visitors, are receiving guidance on how to recognise if a parent may need help with child maintenance issues.
They are also being given information so they can answer parents’ questions and point them in the right direction for more help.
The initiative is being organised by Child Maintenance Options – a national help and support service for parents – together with Action for Children, which runs the children’s centres on behalf of Northumberland County Council.
Separated parents across the Northumberland area who prefer to chat to a Child Maintenance Options expert in person can also benefit from a dedicated consultant who can visit them in their own homes or another venue.
More than a million children nationally who live in separated families miss out from regular financial support because their parents don’t have a maintenance arrangement in place.
Alister Brown, from Action for Children, said: “Separation is an emotionally stressful time for both parents and trying to make critical decisions about what’s best for their children can be difficult.
“If staff here can make their lives easier by giving them guidance and information on crucial issues like child maintenance then we will do everything we can to help.
“We also welcome parents being offered a face to face consultation, as many will benefit from this particular type of help.”
Child Maintenance Options is a free, confidential and impartial service offering parents information on how to make their own family-based maintenance arrangements and talks them through their other choices.
Experts can also help parents work out the amount of maintenance they could pay or receive, as well as giving them tips and advice on how to negotiate with their former partner.
Janet Wojtkow, Director of Child Maintenance Options, said: “We hope that by working with local experts in the Northumberland area and offering local parents a chance to talk to someone face-to-face, we can raise awareness of how important it is to have a child maintenance arrangement that works for them.
“Children are far better off when both parents pitch-in both emotionally and financially.”
The service hopes that in the future, this additional local support may be rolled out across other parts of Northumberland.
For more information on the scheme, telephone 0800 9880988 or visit www.cmoptions.org