Looking beyond the reformed scheme
Challenging questions
Expansions to challenging questions
The Beneficiary of Child Support
Escaping from the social security & civil service models
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Related topic - Can Child Support Agencies ever work?
Related topic - Where to read about the reform programme
Related topic - The 21st Century is making the reformed scheme obsolete
Related topic - The old-fashioned paradigm
Related topic - The "Shared Care" flaws in the reformed scheme
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Challenging questions


The UK's child support system was designed in the late 1980s and early 1990s around a particular paradigm - "Lone Mother on Income Support with young children + Absent Father with significant income". Cases which departed from this model were catered for - if at all - by adding extra features to modify the basic formula. The reformed scheme is still largely based on this model, and it permeates the thinking which led to the 2000 Act.

The paradigm itself can (and should) be challenged - it is clearly old-fashioned. But there may then be a temptation to say "so what - all those extra features that have been added cater for the other cases anyway". These questions are designed to challenge that assumption. Free of this model, a very different child support system may evolve, if those devising the system are not still constrained by thinking that these features have to exist.

For each situation, there are some possible alternatives. Some of these are put up as Aunt Sallys to be knocked down - they are not intended to be taken as serious proposals, just to get critical faculties working. Some are put up as serious proposals for how the UK's child support system should evolve. Some are put up as discussion topics - I don't know whether they should be taken seriously or not. I haven't indicated on this page which category any alternative is in - what I think is an Aunt Sally, someone else may be able to turn into a serious proposal which will then underpin the UK's child support for the rest of the Century!

Some of the alternatives link to a separate page which expands upon them. This expansion may, for example, identify other nations and states which have adopted the alternative. One reason for putting the expansions on a separate page is to provide time to get over any knee-jerk reaction to the questions here! Another reason is that the expansions give clues, which I don't want to give here, about whether I take the suggestion seriously.


Situation Questions

The CSA first labels the parents "parent with care" (PWC) and "non-resident parent" (NRP). Then it calculates how much the NRP should pay the PWC.

First - the labels:

Why have such labels for the parents anyway?

Why not call them "parents"?

If it is necessary to identify one or other specifically, why not call one of them "mother" and the other one "father"?

If caring-time is a factor, why not call them "parent with more time" and "parent with less time"?

Then - who pays whom:

Why should the NRP pay the PWC?

Why doesn't "who pays whom" depend on individual income and other factors?

In fact, why don't they both pay the child?

Situation Questions

The CSA is part of the Department of Social Security.

Why is it part of the DSS (a money distribution agency)?

Why isn't it part of the Inland Revenue (a money collection agency)?

Why isn't it part of the Lord Chancellor's Department (a family disputes resolution organisation)?

The CSA is a government agency.

Why is there only one CSA? What are the implications on quality of service? (What would the Competition Commission, formerly the MMC, say about this? Anyway, why is there only one Competition Commission?)

Why is the CSA a government agency, instead of one or more organisations in the private sector?

Why isn't it a mix of public sector, private sector, and perhaps non-profit sector?

Situation Questions

Much of the CSA legislation and formula and operations is dictated by the Treasury attempting to reduce the social security payments to lone parents.

These are some of the poorest people around.

Why should parents separated from their children continue to pay for those children?

Why should (or shouldn't) taxpayers pay for other people's children?

If an NRP relieves the social security bill by partnering a lone parent, why doesn't this relieve his responsibility for reducing the social security payments (if any) to his ex?

Why not apply "it takes a village (or postcode?) to bring up a child"? And then they must pay to support it?

Where should the extended families of the children fit? (Especially since research says that on average they supply 10% of the money for bringing up a child anyway).

Situation Questions

Child support is specifically:

  • money (liquid - that is, immediately realisable)
  • paid to the PWC

Why is child support specifically money?

Why isn't child support paid (or at least awarded) to the child?

Why can't child support be a mixture of (liquid) money, other financial assets such as investments, and gifts, etc?

Situation Questions

The child support system is designed so that "children share in the wealth of their parents". The reformed scheme does this by allowing the child support to rise to:

  • £300 per week for 1 child
  • £400 per week for 2 children
  • £500 per week for 3 or more children

Should children share in the wealth of their parents? Always?

Once the child support payment rises above the typical researched expenditures on children, who really shares in the wealth of the NRP?

What would a scheme look like that ensured that only the children shared in the wealth of their parents?

Situation Questions

Child support takes into account somewhat the ability of the NRP to pay, for example by being based on the NRP's net income. It takes into account a little the needs of the children, for example the current scheme takes their ages into account (although for most cases it ignores how many there are). The reformed scheme takes into account how many there.

But many factors are missing. For example, perhaps the PWC needs extra while getting into work (which will eventually benefit the children) at a time that the NRP is between jobs and can't afford it.

Why shouldn't the children receive what they need at any time, whether or not the NRP can afford to pay it at that time?

Why shouldn't the NRP pay what he can afford at any time, whether or not the children need it at that time?

More questions will be added as they arise.

Just to show that no questions should be ruled out (only some answers should eventually be ruled out)!

Situation Questions

The child support formula takes into account various financial matters, and factors quite obviously relating to the children. But some factors are omitted from all formulae.

Why not take into account the parents' genetic contribution? Why not reduce the child support liability for parents with "good genes", and increase the liability for those with "bad genes"?

When will all the rhetorical questions end?
What if there were no hypothetical questions?

Page last updated: 7 July, 2004 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003