iI We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience when using our website. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more please look at our cookie policy.
Insert title here Home  > Information charter

Information icon Information charter

This information charter provides an overview of how we manage data protection, freedom of information and the personal information given to us by our customers.

Cases from Britain and Northern Ireland are based on different legislation, so we've created separate information charters for Britain and Northern Ireland. Please make sure you read the one that's relevant to your case.

Information charter for cases based in Great Britain

The Child Maintenance Service is a part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The Child Maintenance Service is responsible for child maintenance in Great Britain.

The Child Maintenance Service and the Data Protection Act

Why we collect your information

We collect information from a number of sources so that we can deal with child maintenance cases. This information helps us to:

  • Process applications
  • Maintain child maintenance cases
  • Process any reviews, appeals or complaints
  • Send you relevant information relating to child maintenance services
  • Offer practical information in areas linked to child maintenance
  • Compile statistics and undertake research and analysis, including risk profiling.

Who do we get information from?

When we want to start working out how much child maintenance a paying parent should pay, we always ask them and the receiving parent for the information we need first.

If you don't give us this information, the law allows us to ask other people or organisations for it. These organisations include:

  • government organisations such as Jobcentre Plus, the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue & Customs and the DVLA
  • prison services and local councils
  • police and law enforcement agencies
  • legal representatives
  • organisations that have information about your financial history, such as banks and building societies, credit reference agencies, and gas and electricity suppliers.
  • overseas organisations with responsibilities for enforcing child maintenance in their jurisdictions
  • the paying parent's employer, accountant or companies or partnerships they provide services to
back

Who can we share the information with?

We take the protection of personal information very seriously. Most of the time we will not tell anyone your address or phone number, but if the law allows, we may give information about you to some other organisations, including:
  • other government organisations such as Jobcentre Plus, the Department for Work and Pensions, and HM Revenue and Customs
  • local authorities (for the purpose of Housing Benefit or Rates Benefit)
  • a court or tribunal (in relation to child maintenance)
  • debt-collection agencies and other organisations helping us to collect child maintenance.
We can also pass on information about you:
  • if we have a legal basis to do so (including the Data Protection Act)
  • to prevent or detect crime
  • if a court orders us to do so
  • if you have given your permission

Can I have access to my personal information?

The Data Protection Act 1998 (the Data Protection Act) allows you to ask to see what personal information we hold about you on computer and in some paper records.

There are two ways of getting information, depending on what you want to know.

1. We can give you the following information free of charge:
  • How your child maintenance has been calculated.
  • A copy of a specific letter we have sent you.
  • An update on your case.

Please contact us if you want this information

2. For all other personal information, you must submit your request in writing.

Requesting a SAR

If you want to make a written request to see your personal information you can ask for a subject access form by either Uploading a Document in the My Messages tab or sending us a message. Remember to choose 'request a SAR form' as the message subject.
If you have any cases based in Northern Ireland, you will need to apply for information separately. See our Information Charter for Northern Ireland for information on how to apply.
You can also contact us by phone or post to request a form if you prefer, but most people find it easiest just to send us a secure message.
The form will ask you information including all the following:
  • full name
  • date of birth
  • address (and phone number if you have one)
  • Child Maintenance Service case number
  • National Insurance number.
You may want to give other details - for example, which Child Maintenance Service office you deal with - to help us find the right information more quickly. Further details of the process are included on the form we'll send you.It may take up to 40 calendar days to process your request.
back
Please send your completed SAR form to:
Child Maintenance Service 21
Mail Handling Site A
Wolverhampton
WV98 2BU
You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view PDF files. If you don't already have it on your computer, you can install the latest version by clicking on the icon below.

Freedom of information

This section explains our Freedom of Information policy and process.

Freedom of Information - What is it?

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) gives any person the right to access information held by a public authority. This covers non-departmental public bodies including the Child Maintenance Service.
Further information on the provisions of the Act can be found on the website of the Information Commissioner's Office.
back

back

What are the access rights?

Anybody, whether an individual or corporate body such as a private company, can apply to have access to any recorded information held by the Child Maintenance Service. This means that potentially all information we hold can be considered for release no matter what form it is held in, including registered paper files, electronic documents, notebooks or miscellaneous collections of paper. You do not have to provide a reason for your request.
The Act also requires that you be told whether the information you want exists or not, but this is subject to certain exceptions
You can specify the manner in which you wish to receive the information, for example a copy, summary, by letter or email. We will attempt to comply with your request.
The Act is fully retrospective. This means that you can ask for any information we hold irrespective of its age. For example, information contained in a document created in 1999 can be requested under the Act even though the Act did not come into force until 1st January 2005.
back

Information that's already published

The information you want may already be published by the Child Maintenance Service. Please check the existing information sources before making a request.

Search GOV.UK website for information


A lot of information is already available on GOV.UK This includes
  • Child Maintenance Service publications
  • Child Maintenance Service freedom of information disclosures - information of general interest that we have disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.
back
back

Can I request information about my case or myself?

The right under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not extend to the provision of personal information the Child Maintenance Service might hold about you. Such requests should be made under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.
The Data Protection Act allows you to request what personal information the Child Maintenance Service holds about you on computer and in some paper records
back
back

Routine requests for information outside our Freedom of Information process

If you know what documents or information you require you may be able to get them by contacting the Child Maintenance Service directly without the need to start our Freedom of Information process. For example, you may want a copy of a document held by a caseworker.
If you think this may apply to the information you want, please contact us
back

How do I make a Freedom of Information request?

If we can't answer your request through the routes described above, you will need to make a Freedom of Information request through the Child Maintenance Service. Please use the details on our contact us page.

back
Your request should:
  • be made in writing - you can ask for a subject access request form by either Uploading a Document in the My Messages tab or sending us a message,
  • clearly describe the information your require,
  • include your name and either a postal or email address for correspondence.
You should get a reply within 20 working days, unless we need to contact you to clarify your request or the public interest test needs to be considered.
back

Can the Child Maintenance Service refuse to provide the requested information?

Yes, in certain circumstances. The following information explains these circumstances.

Exempt information

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 contains a number of exemptions to the right of access to information. Most exemptions need to be considered in two stages. These are:
  • whether the exemption applies to all or parts of the information requested and, if so,
  • whether the public interest in releasing the information is greater than the public interest in withholding it.
If the balance of interests favours disclosure, exempt information will still be released. However, some information (eg personal data of the requester) is covered by 'absolute' exemptions, which means that the public interest test does not apply and we need to withhold the information.
Where we can't release information, we will inform you which exemption applies and why.
Guidance on exemptions is available on GOV.UK.
back

Requests exceeding the appropriate cost limit

We do not charge for answering Freedom of Information requests. However, we do not have to provide the information to you if the cost of doing so is above the appropriate limit.
The appropriate limit for the Child Maintenance Service has been set in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection ( Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 at £ 450. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 2.25 working days in determining whether the Child Maintenance Service holds the information, and locating, retrieving and extracting it.
If we are unable to provide the information to you because it's too costly, we will write to tell you this. We may also ask you to narrow down your request to bring it within the cost limit.

The clarity of your request

It is important that your request includes a clear description of the information you require, to enable us to identify the exact information you want and avoid refusal on the ground of disproportionate costs. For example, this may include specifying what time period you would like the information to cover.
If your request is not clear, we will ask you to clarify it. Once your clarification is received, our response should be issued within 20 working days.

Information not held by the Child Maintenance Service

The Child Maintenance Service might not hold the information you have requested, in which case we will tell you within 20 days
If we do not hold the information you requested but have a reason to believe that another public authority does, we will inform you how you can contact that authority to ask for the information.
back

If you are not happy with our decision

What happens if I am not happy with the response?

If you're not happy with our response or with our handling of your request, you may ask for an internal review by writing to the Child Maintenance Service. Please use the details on the page.
back
Any review request should be submitted within two months of the date of the response.
The review will be conducted by a senior official who was not party to the compiling of the original response. It will examine the decision that was made in the original response and decide if the Freedom of Information Act was applied correctly. If appropriate, this would include the application of exemptions and subsequent public interest tests. In addition, the review will also consider the comments you have made in your review request.
You will be informed of the reviewer's decision in writing. This may support the original decision or overturn it. Any information that we feel able to provide will accompany our reply.

What if I am still unhappy?

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may apply to the Information Commissioner's Office for a decision.
The Information Commissioner acts independently, is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen and reports directly to Parliament. The Commissioner is entitled to see all the papers relating to your request and decide whether our decision meets the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
The Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
back

Freedom of Information statistics

Statistics on the Child Maintenance Service's implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 are reported on quarterly basis to the Ministry of Justice and published on GOV.UK.
back

More information

Further information on Freedom of Information is available on GOV.UK and the website of the Information Commissioner.
back

Information charter for cases based in Northern Ireland

The Child Maintenance Service is a service provided by the Department for Communities that's responsible for child maintenance in Northern Ireland.

The Child Maintenance Service and the Data Protection Act

Why we collect your information

We collect information from a number of sources so that we can deal with child maintenance cases. This information helps us to:
  • Process applications
  • Maintain child maintenance cases
  • Process any reviews, appeals or complaints
  • Send you relevant information relating to child maintenance services
  • Compile statistics and undertake research and analysis
back

Who do we get information from?

When we want to start working out how much child maintenance a paying parent should pay, we always ask them and the receiving parent for the information we need first. But if parents don't give us this information, the law allows us to ask other people or organisations for it. These people or organisations include:
  • the paying parent's employer(s), their accountant, or companies or partnerships that they provide services to.
  • government organisations, such as the Department for Communities, HM Revenue & Customs and the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA)
  • prison services and local councils
  • police and law enforcement agencies
  • legal representatives
  • organisations that have information about the paying parent's financial history, such as banks and building societies, credit reference agencies, and gas and electricity suppliers.
  • overseas organisations with responsibilities for enforcing child maintenance in their jurisdictions
We don't have to get your permission to contact these people or organisations.
back

Who can we share the information with?

We take the protection of personal information very seriously. Most of the time we will not tell anyone your address or phone number, but if the law allows, we may give information about you to some other organisations, including:
  • other government organisations such as the Department for Communities and HM Revenue and Customs
  • local authorities (for the purpose of Housing Benefit or Tax Benefit)
  • a court or tribunal (in relation to child maintenance)
  • debt-collection agencies and other organisations helping us to collect child maintenance.
If a court orders us to release your address we have to do so, and we can also pass on information about you if we think it will help to prevent or detect crime.
back

Can I have access to my personal information?

The Data Protection Act 1998 (the Data Protection Act) allows you to ask to see what personal information we hold about you on computer and in some paper records.
There are two ways of getting information, depending on what you want to know.
1. We can give you the following information free of charge:
  • How your child maintenance has been calculated.
  • A copy of a specific letter we have sent you.
  • An update on your case.
Please contact us if you want this information
back
2. For all personal information, you must submit your request in writing.
back

Requesting a SAR

If you want to make a request to see your personal information, please ask us for a SAR form by sending us a secure message from your account. Remember to choose 'request a SAR form' as the message subject.
back

If you have any cases based in Great Britain, you will need to apply for information separately. See our Information Charter for Great Britain for information on how to apply.

This way we can track your request from the moment you make it, and match it up with your payment. You can also contact us by phone or post to request a form if you prefer, but most people find it easiest just to send us a secure message.
back
The form will ask you information including all the following:
  • full name
  • date of birth
  • address (and phone number if you have one)
  • Child Maintenance Service case number
  • National Insurance number.
You may want to give other details to help us find the right information more quickly.
When we have your request we'll process it. This may take up to 20 calendar days.
You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view PDF files. If you don't already have it on your computer, you can install the latest version by clicking on the icon below.
back

Freedom of information

This section explains our Freedom of Information policy and process.

Freedom of Information - What is it?

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) gives any person the right to access information held by a public authority. This covers departmental public bodies including the Child Maintenance Service.
Further information on the provisions of the Act can be found on the website of the Information Commissioner's Office.
back
back

What are the access rights?

Anybody, whether an individual or corporate body such as a private company, can apply to have access to any recorded information held by the Child Maintenance Service. This means that potentially all information we hold can be considered for release no matter what form it is held in, including registered paper files, electronic documents, notebooks or miscellaneous collections of paper. You do not have to provide a reason for your request.
The Act also requires that you be told whether the information you want exists or not, but this is subject to certain exceptions
You can specify the manner in which you wish to receive the information, for example a copy, summary, by letter or email. We will attempt to comply with your request.
The Act is fully retrospective. This means that you can ask for any information we hold irrespective of its age. For example, information contained in a document created in 1999 can be requested under the Act even though the Act did not come into force until 1st January 2005.
back

Information that's already published

The information you want may already be published by the Child Maintenance Service. Please check the existing information sources before making a request.

Search the Department for Communities website for information


A lot of information is already available on the DfC website This includes:
  • Child Maintenance Service publications
  • Child Maintenance Service freedom of information disclosures - information of general interest that the Child Maintenance Service has disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act
back
back

Can I request information about my case or myself?

The right under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not extend to the provision of personal information the Child Maintenance Service might hold about you. Such requests should be made under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.
The Data Protection Act allows you to request what personal information the Child Maintenance Service holds about you on computer and in some paper records
back
back

Routine requests for information outside our Freedom of Information process

If you know what documents or information you require you may be able to get them by contacting the Child Maintenance Service directly without the need to start our Freedom of Information process. For example, you may want a copy of a document held by a caseworker.
If you think this may apply to the information you want, please contact us
back

How do I make a Freedom of Information request?

If we can't answer your request through the routes described above, you will need to make a Freedom of Information request through the Child Maintenance Service. You can do this by writing to:
The Departmental Information Manager
Department for Communities
Ground Floor, Lighthouse Building
Gasworks Business Park
Ormeau Road
Belfast
BT7 2JB
or e-mail: foi@communities-ni.gov.uk , stating your name and contact details. Applications should provide as much detail as possible to identify the information sought.
back
You should get a reply within 20 working days, unless we need to contact you to clarify your request or the public interest test needs to be considered.
back

Can the Child Maintenance Service refuse to provide the requested information?

Yes, in certain circumstances. The following information explains these circumstances.

Exempt information

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 contains a number of exemptions to the right of access to information. Most exemptions need to be considered in two stages. These are:
  • whether the exemption applies to all or parts of the information requested and, if so,
  • whether the public interest in releasing the information is greater than the public interest in withholding it.
If the balance of interests favours disclosure, exempt information will still be released. However, some information (eg personal data of the requester) is covered by 'absolute' exemptions, which means that the public interest test does not apply and we need to withhold the information.
Where we can't release information, we will inform you which exemption applies and why.
Guidance on exemptions is available on the NIDirect website.
back

Requests exceeding the appropriate cost limit

We do not charge for answering Freedom of Information requests. However, we do not have to provide the information to you if the cost of doing so is above the appropriate limit.
The appropriate limit for the Child Maintenance Service has been set in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection ( Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 at £ 450. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 2.25 working days in determining whether the Child Maintenance Service holds the information, and locating, retrieving and extracting it.
If we are unable to provide the information to you because it's too costly, we will write to tell you this. We may also ask you to narrow down your request to bring it within the cost limit.

The clarity of your request

It is important that your request includes a clear description of the information you require, to enable us to identify the exact information you want and avoid refusal on the ground of disproportionate costs. For example, this may include specifying what time period you would like the information to cover.
If your request is not clear, we will ask you to clarify it. Once your clarification is received, our response should be issued within 20 working days.

Information not held by the Child Maintenance Service

The Child Maintenance Service might not hold the information you have requested, in which case we will tell you within 20 days
If we do not hold the information you requested but have a reason to believe that another public authority does, we will inform you how you can contact that authority to ask for the information.
back

If you are not happy with our decision

What happens if I am not happy with the response?

Our Director of Policy and Coordination has overall responsibility for our Publication Scheme. Day to day responsibility for the operation of the scheme rests with our Departmental Information Manager who can be contacted at:
The Departmental Information Manager
Department for Communities
Ground Floor
Lighthouse Building
Gasworks Business Park
Ormeau Road
Belfast
BT7 2JB
or email: foi@communities-ni.gov.uk We would be pleased to hear from you if you have any comments about our scheme.
back
If you feel that we have not complied with our commitment to publish information as set out in our Publication Scheme or you are dissatisfied with our response to a request for information, you may complain to our Departmental Information Manager.

What if I am still unhappy?

If you remain dissatisfied, you can seek an independent review from:
The Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Telephone: 01625 545 745, Fax: 01625 524 510
back
Any review request should be submitted within two months of the date of the response.
back

Related links

Freedom of Information statistics

Statistics on the Commission's implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 are reported on quarterly basis to the Ministry of Justice and published on their website.
back

More information

Further information on Freedom of Information is available on the websites of NIDirect and Information Commissioner.
back