[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Child support agency 'flawed'
Hands
Parents say they have been criticised for paying on time
The Child Support Agency is to be axed and replaced with a new agency focusing on parents who refuse to co-operate. Mothers and fathers will be encouraged to make their own arrangements over child maintenance.

The agency has been the cause of many complaints from parents and officials.

GEOFF, A FATHER

It's been flawed from day one of the CSA. The first information I got was a letter saying I owed tens of thousands of pounds - and that I'd got 10 days to pay it, or something like that. And I rang the agency, and I said to the lady: 'How am I supposed to do this?'

She never said that some of the debt could be deferred because they'd taken so long to work it out. I asked her: 'Give me a good reason why I shouldn't kill myself tonight?' And she said, after some time: 'The sun will come out tomorrow.' And I said: 'Thank you, my life hangs on a thread and they've put me through to little orphan Annie.'

Seven times last year I had letters saying if I didn't pay, all of the deferred debt would become current - that they would take punitive measures.

When I chased it down, because I've not missed a payment, they told me I was causing the problem because I was paying too early.

LORD HUNT, WORK AND PENSIONS MINISTER

The problem with assessment is that the way the system works at the moment is the agency has to keep track of ever-changing financial circumstances.

That can prove to be very difficult.

At the same time it's often in the middle of warring parents. There are some parents who do everything to evade responsibility, and that's why we really do need to start again.

CAROLYN, A MOTHER

Definitely it should go through the Inland Revenue and the National Insurance.

My son's father hasn't paid a penny for him since the day he was born.

I've got folders full of liaisons with the CSA. And the last time they said that they'd tracked him down, and that he was working - but he was working for a charity full-time and that family and friends were paying his mortgage, and that he wasn't earning a penny.

Sounds a very lame excuse, but the CSA... had so many to deal with, that they just kind of [said]: 'Well, that's that one sorted.'

CHRIS POND, NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR ONE PARENT FAMILIES

We do need an agency which is effective in making sure that the kids who need that support from their non-resident parents get that help.

It's got to be much tougher in enforcement, it's got to be much more effective in administration, and we're hoping that these changes will bring this about.

KEVIN, A FATHER

It doesn't seem to be a 'child' support agency...I actually term it the feckless parents support agency because the whole system seems to be geared towards delays.

The parent who does not want to pay the support can use these delays time and time again, whether it's cheques bouncing, direct debits bouncing and when the deduction of earnings order is even taken, it then takes months and months for it to come through and all the time the child is not being supported.

REBECCA, A MOTHER

The CSA has worked well for me, establishing arrears owed and ordering a deduction of earnings order which has continued without problems for two years now.

I am worried that if the current system is scrapped then I will lose the arrears payments that I am owed. Also how will it be able to be assessed again over the years to check for pay rises etc?

I know if my ex could try and do me out of the money he would, so it will be very interesting seeing him with a tag on! It needs to be a set system fair on absent parents as much as parents with care!

JOHN BAKER, FAMILIES NEED FATHERS

Nobody's disputing there are some irresponsible parents, but the people who come to my charity protesting against the CSA and resisting their payments often turn out to be protesting about not being allowed to see their children enough.

So remove that problem, you'll ease the problem of the CSA. And then, of course, you can get tough on the remainder, but don't get tough on those people who really just want to see more of their children.

PHILIP HAMMOND, CONSERVATIVE WORK AND PENSIONS SPOKESMAN

If people can sort it out for themselves, we'd like to see them sort it out for themselves.

But we can't ignore the fact that of course many couples are in a very strained relationship when there's been a family break-up.

We can't just have the government push the whole responsibility back to individuals. And the key to the whole thing is the process of sorting it out, the assessment.

How you decide what the contribution the absent parent is going to make is? And until we get that right, everything else flows from that.




SEE ALSO
Costly CSA reforms 'not working'
29 Jun 06 |  UK Politics
Parent complaints about CSA rise
27 Jun 06 |  UK Politics
Private firms to chase CSA debts
18 Jan 06 |  UK Politics
The troubled history of the CSA
18 Jan 06 |  UK Politics

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites




FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific