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Last Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006, 05:19 GMT 06:19 UK
CSA: goodbye - and good riddance?
mother and child in silhouette
Parents who don't pay up could get electronic tags
After thirteen troubled years, the Child Support Agency is to be scrapped in its current form.

Ministers are expected to set out plans later today to dismantle the CSA. Its replacement will be a slimmed down agency which will concentrate on those absent parents who refuse to pay up.

Parents who are splitting up will be encouraged to agree their own arrangements for maintenance.

And the new slimline CSA replacement will concentrate on those who refuse to play ball, with powers to confiscate passports, send in the bailiffs and even put electronic tags on those who refuse to pay a penny.

This morning on Breakfast:

  • We talked to Lord Hunt, one of the government ministers responsible for the CSA:

    "It's clear that the CSA has had problems for years - and we really do need a new approach," he told us.

    "We need to actually give the responsiblity back tot he parents to resolve the problems themselves."

    Everyone we spoke to told us that making the correct assessment was the key.

    Byt, Lord Hunt explained: "The problem with assessments is that the agency has to keep track of ever changing financial circumstances.

    "It's often in the middle of warring parents and there are some who do everything they can to avoid their responsibility to their children."

  • We talked to the Conservative Work and Pensions spokesman Phil Hammond

    He told us there was agreement across the political parties that the CSA wasn't working.

  • We debated how best to deal with absent parents who simply refuse to co-operate, when we talked to Birgit Cunningham of Babies for Justice and Chris Pond of the National Council for One Parent Families.

  • We talked to John Baker of the campaigning group Families Need Fathers

  • We asked for your experiences of the Child Support Agency - and got a torrent of emails

    The agency which replaces the CSA will not be expected to handle all maintenance cases.

    Instead it will concentrate on the toughest, where absent parents refuse to pay a penny for towards their children's upbringing.

    It's expected to get new powers to force parents to pay. That could include confiscating passports so that foreign holidays are off limits, sending in the bailiffs to recover maintenance that's owing.

    There's even a suggestion that electronic tagging could be used, to prevent absent parents going out after work, while they still owe money to support their children.

    The Child Support Agency has struggled from the moment it was set up, by the last Conservative government.

    There have been numerous complaints about wrongly assessed maintenance, unanswered letters and phone calls and failure to chase cases up.

    The Liberal Democrats say it has a backlog of one third of a million cases, involving 3.5bn. Theyr'e calling for the government to write off all the unpaid debts.

  • BBC Breakfast


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