WOMEN’S groups have branded a charge on child support payments for domestic abuse victims “cruel and callous” and want it scrapped.

The new Child Maintenance Service which took over form the child support agency CSA charges an administration fee for acting as a go between in child support payments.

Unless the parents agree a ”family-based arrangement” where the person being paid discloses their bank details to the other, the CMS keeps 4% of the payment as a “collection fee”.

Organisations including Women’s Aid and One Parent Families Scotland say this charge is unavoidable for women who have suffered abuse who can’t give out details to their ex-partner.

They have said it is a tax on the payments which discriminates against women who have been abused.

Marsha Scott, of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “It may be a right for women to live free from fear and abuse, but it is far from a reality.

“Women experiencing domestic abuse face numerous challenges in leaving abusive partners, including being financially dependent.”

Marion Davis head of Policy One Parent Families Scotland, said: “This is not putting children first.

“In particular we feel strongly that victims-survivors of domestic abuse should be exempt from charges to ensure that child support is paid and that parents and children are not traumatised further by having to make contact with a violent ex-partner.”

The campaigners argue the only safe way for payments to be made to women in this situation is through the Child Maintenance Service and therefore should be free of any charges.

Angela Crawley, SNP Lanark and Hamilton East MP, has written to the Prime Minister Theresa May asking for the charges to be scrapped.

She said it was near impossible for women who have escaped abuse to share details with an ex-partner.

Ms Crawley said: “I am very concerned that this is a cruel and callous tax on child support and that ultimately it is the children who will lose out on money intended to support them. It is the responsibility of the UK Government to do everything in its power to protect children from falling into poverty.”