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This Is Lancashire
are part of the problem
SIR: I feel that if MPs are not part of the CSA solution then they
are part of the CSA problem. Politicians cannot abdicate their collective
responsibility for the deaths and mayhem caused by the Child Support
Act to the families of this country. As long as the politicians
remain silent we can only assume their support for this evil legislation.
Clearly they approve of the human misery, the intrusions into decent
people's family lives and the well documented waste of public resources.
They are supposed to represent the interests of the citizens who
elected them and those who cannot recognise the human and legislative
disaster which is the CSA, are no longer fit to hold office. No
government is entitled to do to its people what ours has done. This
daylight robbery must be rubbed into the politicians' faces. They
must never be allowed to forget the devastation they've caused the
men, women and children of this country. Contempt for the people
is the ultimate crime of government and, right now, hundreds of
MPs stand guilty."
This Is Lancashire
scrounge from pensioner mum to pay for my son
DIVORCED Dad [X] says he has been left wondering where his next
meal is coming from after the Child Support Agency increased his
weekly payments from £7 to £70. The 42-year-old Group
4 security guard only realised his contributions had been reassessed
when the money had already been deducted from his first wage of
He said: "I still can't believe they have pushed me on to
the poverty line. I have been forced to scrounge off my 76-year-old
mother who is on state benefits." He says the new amount must
have been assessed when his pay was unusually high because he was
doing extra hours at the Labour Party conference in Blackpool. "I
just don't understand why the CSA has decided to reassess my payments
when my circumstances have not changed. "I literally don't
know where my next meal is coming from because all of my income
during the last three weeks has been swallowed up by them."
This Is Lancashire
THE controversial Child Support Agency may have climbed out of
the administrative chaos that blighted its birth in 1993 but it
still needs to improve its act. For, even now, it has a big backlog
of cases. A Commons select committee reports today that, despite
a substantially improved performance by the agency, only about a
third of lone parents on Income Support and Family Credit have received
a CSA assessment.
That is a raw deal for lots of single parents - and the taxpayers.
For the agency was set up to take lone parents off benefit by ensuring
that they received proper maintenance payments from their absent
ex-partners. Considering that there are 1.46 million of them on
benefit, the CSA's giant backlog suggests that too many dodging
dads are still too easily evading their responsibilities to their
children and society. The time has run out for the CSA to plead
teething troubles and, unless it can convincingly show that it has
not sufficient resources to cope with its caseload, it should now
start putting the bite on hard.
This Is Lancashire
dads are being chased
SIR: So at last we are getting a glimmer of truth about the reasons
for the CSA (BEN, March 19). "The role of the CSA is to take
lone parents off benefit". What about maintenance for the children?
The fact is that the CSA far from chasing feckless fathers who would
not pay is persecuting the fathers who were already paying because
they are the easy targets. Lone mothers, far from receiving any
maintenance for the children get any payment deducted, pound for
pound from any benefit received.
The Conservatives do not care about the distress they have caused,
Labour will not say what they will do, only the Liberal Democrats
have stated they will scrap this horrendous Act. There are 9000
people in each constituency affected by this Act, maybe they will
express their disgust at this Act and the way it is operated, at
the ballot box.
This Is Lancashire
a miserable failure
THE Child Support Agency was established, quite rightly, to ensure
that all parents contribute towards the cost of bringing up their
children, rather than abdicating these responsibilities and expecting
the Welfare State to pick up the tab. Unfortunately, the CSA is
failing miserably to have much impact on the monies spent by the
Department of Social Security on Income Support payments to those
families where an absent parent should be making some financial
So what does it do to camouflage this inadequacy? It targets instead
those parents whose children have never been maintained by the Welfare
State through DSS benefits, who would have made maintenance payments
voluntarily or through the Family Courts, and who have always accepted
their parental responsibilities. The CSA is trying to 'con' both
the public and the Government by putting out just how much money
it is succeeding in bringing in from supposed non-contributing parents.
The fact is that much of the money obtained is for 'private' clients,
who are not, and may never have been on DSS Benefits. These private
clients know that in comparison to what they may expect from a voluntary
or Family Court settlement, the CSA assessment will always discriminate
against the parent not having actual care of the children.
Citizen on Sunday
(From NACSA BOTD)
Visitors to Furzton Lake failed to spot a man hanging in a tree
until mid-afternoon, where he had been since the early hours of
the morning. Even police who had visited the lakes car park
earlier in the day to investigate a car with the keys let in the
ignition later discovering it was the dead mans car
failed to spot him.
The inquest heard Mr [X] had bank debts of more than £1,000
and he owed money to the Child Support Agency for payments to two
teenage children from a former relationship.
to scrap £600m 'problem' computer
By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent
THE Child Support Agency's computer, blamed for bringing misery
to thousands of parents because it sometimes issued demands for
nonsensical payments, is to be scrapped only four years after it
was built. Tenders for a new system will be issued next year, and
the £600 million computer system supplied and maintained by
the American company EDS will be replaced in 1999. Problems with
the system began almost as soon as it was installed to recover money
from absent parents.
One father complained that the CSA had told him it had never heard
of him even though it had previously completed an assessment on
his earnings. Several suicides were blamed on the agency after the
computer system issued demands for payments that parents could not
meet. I also prompted calls for changes in data protection rules.
In November 1994, the agency had to buy an IBM system to overcome
some of the deficiencies of the EDS model. In January 1996, the
DSS was criticised by a committee of MPs over the agency's system,
which cost £514 million to run while collecting just £500
million. One father complained that the CSA had told him it had
never heard of him even though it had previously completed an assessment
on his earnings. Several suicides were blamed on the agency after
the computer system issued demands for payments that parents could
This Is Lancashire
kick out dole plan
BURY Council is to boycott the Government's controversial "work
for your dole" scheme. And local authority leaders are also
telling their business partners to join them in kicking Project
Work out of the borough. Bury has been chosen to pilot the scheme,
which is targeted at people aged 18-50 who have been unemployed
for more than two years.
But council leader John Byrne said the council was not against
genuine schemes which got people back to work and gave them real
wages and training. "The problem is that this is ill-conceived,
like the Child Support Act," he said. "The CSA was presented
from the moral angle of making errant people pay, yet it was used
to cut the benefit bill. "Project Work is merely trying to
get people off the unemployment register."
This Is Lancashire
signs of a swing to Labour
DEFENDING Bury North MP Alistair Burt is enjoying himself as he
desperately battles to hold his marginal seat.
David Chaytor is also Bury born and bred and Bury Grammar School
Mr Burt's role as Minister in charge of the controversial Child
Support Agency - accused of hounding many absent fathers and their
second families to save the Treasury cash - will also harm his vote,
Mr Chaytor believes. Mr Burt, on the other hand, accepts there may
have been some damage done by his CSA responsibilities, but hopes
his role as North-West Minister may redress the balance.
This Is Lancashire
Support Agency slammed by bereaved mum
A FURIOUS Bolton mother has slammed the Child Support Agency who
requested details of her former fiance - who died two years ago
from a brain haemorrhage. [X], aged 32, received a letter from the
CSA last week concerning [Z], the father of her son [Z], aged three.
[Y] died two years ago aged 30 and [X] was even loaned money by
the Department of Social Security to cover funeral expenses.
She said: "Details of [Y]' death will be on record at the
DSS. In the letter, the CSA said they had checked my Income Support
records and found out that [Y] no longer lives with me. "Because
he doesn't live with me they want to know where he is. They could
have saved me a great deal of distress if they had only checked
with the DSS. A CSA spokesman said: "A letter of apology will
be sent to [X]."
(This is the same case as:
1997-05-20 Evening Standard)
A father stabbed to death his former wifes husband in a frenzied
attack after the Child Support Agency seized over half his wages,
the Old Bailey heard on Monday. [R], 54, confronted [P] on the doorstep
of his home hours after receiving a demand for £206 a month
maintenance from his gross salary of £560. Orlando Pownall,
prosecuting, said [R] pulled an eight inch knife and stabbed Mr
Pigg 10 times in the head, arm and body screaming: "Die you
bastard, die". Mr [P], 30, died shortly afterwards. In 1996,
the CSA had asked [R] for £13 a week in maintenance for his
13-year-old daughter. [R], of Hampton, Middlesex, who denies murder,
then telephoned the CSA and said: "This situation could have
a very, very tragic outcome."
He quit his £23,000 a year job as a Heathrow Airport supervisor
and later took a part-time job and sold his home for £46,000
giving his former wife half. He was £1,000 in arrears with
maintenance, and had declared himself bankrupt, when he learnt that
a deduction of £206 was being made from his wages. When he
saw it he told a colleague. "I do not believe this they
are robbing me." [R] later told police: "The CSA said
my payments had increased because I was homeless. I went to talk
to Mr [P] to see if he would give me some money. He started shouting
and saying terrible things about my marriage. He hit me a glancing
blow. I hoped that if I poked him he would stop."
(This is the same case as:
1997-05-13 Daily Express)
A father who said he was driven to kill by the CSA when they began
taking almost half his wages, was found not guilty of murder today.
[R], 54, was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation
and jailed for seven years for killing his former wifes new
husband. The court was told that Mr [P] had badgered the CSA to
increase payments for his 13-year-old daughter [A]. The agency,
learning [R] was homeless, reasoned he would have more money available
to pay his ex-wife.
loses legal battle to stop wife's abortion
By Auslan Cramb, Scotland Correspondent
A 28-YEAR-old man lost a court battle yesterday to prevent his
estranged wife from aborting their unborn child. A senior judge
said that the courts could not take the place of doctors in determining
the grounds for an abortion.
Cardinal Thomas Winning, leader of the 750,000-strong Roman Catholic
Church in Scotland, said in a statement: "It is a sad day indeed.
There is surely an extraordinary anomaly in the law when a father
can be pursued by the Child Support Agency for maintenance of a
child, but has no say in protecting the child's life in the womb."
This Is Lancashire
hit dad with £19,500 bill
A BOLTON dad who lives on the breadline has been landed with a
£19,500 bill from the Child Support Agency - despite paying
maintenance for the last 16 years.
Furious [X] and [Y] have hit out at the "heartless" agency
they say has threatened to take them to court. They say [Y], who
split from his first wife in 1981, has been paying £40 a month
to Bolton Magistrates Court for the last 16 years supporting his
teenage son. But according to records by the CSA, [Y], who works
at a Bolton DIY firm, has neglected his duty and now has to pay
£107 a month to make up the £19,500 arrears.
A spokesman for the CSA said that if a maintenance order was being
paid then the bill would be an error and every effort would be made
to rectify the damage caused. A CSA spokesman, however, said that
clients who do not provide them with enough information would be
given a deduction from income order. The CSA spokesman added: "A
client who simply will not provide the necessary information should
not have been surprised when, after reasonable warning, an interim
assessment was made and a deduction from earnings order imposed.
This Is Lancashire
dads lose out
SIR: I refer to the report 'CSA Hit Dad etc' (BEN, June 3). I understood
the CSA was set up to catch errant fathers who abandon their responsibilities
to their families, your paper even reported as much recently. The
evidence from this latest article just confirms what a load of unadulterated
rubbish this is.
As for the CSA spokesman's quote about 'clients' (suckers) simply
not supplying information and not being surprised about deduction
orders, this infuriates me as they levy the 'fine' which doesn't
reflect any previously requested sum without notice. With regards
to encouraging people to talk to local staff, in their dreams. The
number you have to call is difficult to get through to, and when
it is answered you are likely to talk to a faceless person 'just
doing their job', who doesn't appear to care about what you say
unless you are offering payment. On every bit of correspondence
from the CSA there is a sentence inviting the respondent to request
a face to face interview but if you request one you are told the
waiting list is three to four months and not worth it. I've been
asking now for 18 months so could have had at least four by now.
Repeated questions in writing are usually ignored except on one
occasion when I had an acknowledgement two months later but no answers.
fathers targeted in CSA shake-up
By Joy Copley, Political Staff
STRICT new targets for the Child Support Agency were announced
by the Government yesterday to clear an enormous backlog of cases
and chase up absent fathers. Harriet Harman, the Social Security
Secretary, said she wanted to see an extra 500,000 maintenance assessments
completed by the end of the year. The Government also wanted to
see more accurate assessment of cases after many were found to be
wrong. Extra telephone lines would be established because people
who rang the CSA often had to make eight calls before they got through,
she said. Mrs Harman told the Commons that she was looking for "substantial
and sustained improvements" in the agency's performance. Some
absent fathers had used the CSA's administrative failings since
it was set up by the previous government as a justification for
their determination not to pay up, she said. But Labour was determined
to ensure that they paid their fair share through an efficient CSA.
Mrs Harman insisted that there was no question of the agency being
ordered to be more aggressive in collecting debts
By Jon Hibbs, Political Correspondent
THE Child Support Agency has been ordered to be more aggressive
in collecting maintenance payments from absent fathers as part of
the Government's programme to get lone parents off benefit and into
work. Independent research shows that where fathers pay regular
maintenance for their children, lone mothers find it easier to return
to work. The tougher approach comes amid official estimates that
the Government is on track to save £2.8 billion in benefit
payments during this Parliament. Nevertheless, ministers have told
the agency that it must step up its efforts to get more money more
quickly, after discovering that almost two out of three fathers
chased by the agency are refusing to provide proper financial support
for their children.
The CSA has been allocated a further £15 million from next
April to employ an extra 900 staff. The Department of Social Security
believes that the investment will mean an extra 83,000 absent fathers
paying maintenance and should raise an extra £120 million
in payments. Keith Bradley, the minister responsible for child support,
said: "We are looking for substantial and sustained operational
improvements from the agency, in particular in getting more maintenance
paid, reducing the backlog and improving customer service."
Faith Boardman, the chief executive of the CSA, has been told that
agency staff will be expected to make contact with absent fathers
earlier. In addition they must adopt a more "aggressive"
approach to collecting the debts.
This Is Lancashire
Child Support Agency
SIR: Mr Tony Blair leader of the Labour Party knows the Child Support
Agency is in dire straits. A survey carried out by Labour's Gerry
Sutcliffe just before the general election firmly established that
MPs are simply not prepared to carry on dealing with surgeries stuffed
full of CSA cases. They want action. The point is, what kind of
action will they get?
They realise the only solution is abolition, yet, strangely, Labour's
catch phrase of the moment is that they cannot afford to scrap the
CSA. They seem quite unaware that income is more or less the same
as it was under the old Liable Relatives Unit, yet the CSA costs
nearly four times more to run. What's more, the court-based system
remains in place. It still deals with all other aspects of divorce,
even though matters of child maintenance have been removed from
its remit. There is no reason why, even temporarily, things couldn't
go back to how they were. It would instantly save taxpayers £1.1b.....
the cost of a new computer.
dogged by errors in payments
By David Fletcher, Health Correspondent
NEARLY four out of 10 maintenance payents made by the Child Support
Agency last year were for the wrong amounts, the National Audit
Office said yesterday. Sir John Bourn, head of the office, said
the level of wrong assessments by the agency was so high that he
could not fully certify its accounts. However, the agency claimed
that 87 per cent of its assessments were correct "to the last
penny" when it did a check last March and it was now entering
"a new era".Sir John said many of the errors were a legacy
from mistakes made by the agency in previous years and that "significant
progress" was now being made.
Faith Boardman, chief executive, admitted that there was still
much to do to improve the agency's performance but she said it was
now dealing adequately with incoming work. It said in its annual
report yesterday that absent parents paid nearly £400 million
in child maintenance last year, an increase of one third on the
students sue their parents
By Auslan Cramb, Scottish Correspondent
ANOTHER two students are suing their parents for financial support
following a court case in which a law student demanded £400
in living costs from his mother. [A], 19, a chemical engineering
student, has won legal aid to sue his father, [C], 41, from Evesham,
Worcs, for £250 a month. And [P], 17, has taken her father
to court to seek £200 a month to support her through exams
In the latest case, [C] has been asked to double the support he
is giving to his son at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh. He has
been estranged from both his teenage sons for 18 months following
an acrimonious divorce from their mother, [D], who lives in Crossford,
Fife. He said yesterday that he began making payments of £125
a month earlier this year, which was all he could afford from his
£22,000 salary. He paid £44 a week while his eldest
son [A] was living at home, and still pays £33 through the
Child Support Agency for his 17-year-old son, [B]. Mr [C] said yesterday
that he planned to contest the case.
blunders 'would take a year to mend'
By Robert Shrimsley, Chief Political Correspondent
THE scale of errors by the Child Support Agency is so great that
it would take the entire staff a year to rectify them, its chief
executive admitted yesterday. Faith Boardman accepted criticisms
that 85 per cent of the payments made by absent parents were inaccurate.
A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, the independent
financial watchdog of Government spending, said the majority of
errors "were caused by mistakes in the underlying maintenance
assessments". His report calculated that a sixth of the errors
were of more than £1,000. The number of people affected is
unclear, although the CSA is handling 610,000 cases and has processed
more than two million claims in its four-year history.
Yesterday, Mrs Boardman faced the anger of MPs at the Commons Public
Accounts Committee and admitted that the agency was facing an almost
impossible backlog. So great was the burden that the CSA was not
even attempting to go back and clear all the errors. Mrs Boardman
said the errors mainly related to the "agency's incompetence
when it was first set up" and the CSA was now achieving an
86 per cent accuracy rate in securing the right payments from absent
parents. Instead of revisiting immediately all the cases of errors
- which involved both over and underpayments by absent parents -
the CSA intends to use its system of two-yearly reviews of all existing
cases to correct the mistakes. But Mrs Boardman accepted that the
problem would cause significant amounts of debt to whichever parent
had benefited from the errors. The CSA is still falling behind.
More than half of outstanding assessments have waited more than
a year for processing.
This Is Lancashire
wins vow for review of the CSA
LEIGH MP Lawrence Cunliffe has won a promise from the Government
that it will fully review the activities of the Child Support Agency.
Social Security Minister Keith Bradley has promised to take into
account the Labour backbencher's many detailed criticisms of the
system. Mr Cunliffe said the CSA was "administered incompetently
- it is a cock-up". He said that the "the Child Support
Act of 1991 is the most infamous, iniquitous act that has gone on
the statute book since the poll tax legislation. "Administrative
incompetence, together with the injustice in the system, adds insult
to injury to thousands of conscientious parents, and brings financial
distress to many second families throughout the country."
The Manchester Evening News (early edition)
CSA ADMITS £20,000 BLUNDER
A DEMAND for £20,000 child maintenance arrears sent to a
Manchester man was all a mistake, officials admitted today. The
Child Support Agency had refused to listen to horrified father-of-three
David Allen when he insisted he knew nothing about two other mystery
children. They said he would have to pay for a DNA test to prove
his innocence. And the demand arrived just as Mr Allen and his wife
were celebrating the birth of their own new baby.
The CSA promised to send Mr Allen details of their compensation
scheme and he said: "I'll be looking at what's on offer.''
The CSA said they had a system for tracing reluctant fathers, but
declined to say how this mistake had been made. "We are sorry
for any suffering or distress this had caused,'' they said. Mr Allen's
ordeal began when he was told in a letter from the Belfast CSA office
that he owed child maintenance payments to a Mandy Creary for children
born in 1989 and 1993. Regular payments of £110.55 were due
to start on November 14, it said - and he owed arrears of £20,167.
Mr Allen said: "`I thought it was a joke at first or even some
kind of elaborate fraud but I rang them up and they insisted that
it was me. "I kept saying I'd never heard of the woman but
they wouldn't accept they could be wrong. "They claimed they
knew everything about me but wouldn't tell me anything. It has been
a nightmare. We have been married for six years but we have been
together for 17 years.'' Joanne, also 33, said: "I trust my
husband and it is a good job I do. We were just getting over having
the baby when this happened.'' Following Mr Allens case being taken
up by his MP, the CSA have now agreed to pay him compensation for
the distress caused to him and his family.
This Is Lancashire
team ends helpline
CAMPAIGNERS who helped hundreds of families with queries about
the Child Support Agency are pulling the plug on their advice line.
Tony Leather and Christine Stables formed Pendle CSA Advice four
years ago to give independent advice on problems. Said Mr Leather:
"The move has been forced on us by pressure of other commitments
and we would like to pass on our best wishes to all those who have
sought our help over the past four years. Anyone would needs independent
advice about CSA problems should contact their local Citizens Advice
Bureau from now on. They have all been given details of the National
Association for Child Support Action, including copies of the CSA
A final word of advice from the Nelson team is to get useful allies
on side. Mr Leather added: "If people have been subject to
unacceptable mistakes, delays and maladministration by the CSA one
of the most effective ways of getting movement is to involve their
Member of Parliament who can take up the case with the CSA chief
executive's office. If that fails, and all normal appeals have been
exhausted, it's time to contact the Independent Case examiner for
the CSA at Chester."
to clamp down on 'lying' lone parents
By Rachel Sylvester, Political Correspondent
MINISTERS are drawing up plans to force lone parents to give more
information to the Child Support Agency because they believe that
thousands of single mothers are lying to get extra benefits. The
Government is determined to tighten up the rules, claiming that
single mothers are exploiting the welfare system by falsely stating
that they would be at risk of violence from their absent husband
or boyfriend. Ministers do not believe that the figures reflect
a genuine increase in domestic violence. They are convinced that
many women are refusing to pass on the information so that they
can continue to claim benefits rather than relying on the father
of their child for financial support.
Officials automatically approach all single mothers claiming benefit
to ask them for the name and address of their estranged husband
or boyfriend so that the CSA can ask the father for money. Women
can refuse to divulge these details if they say that they or their
children would be "at risk of harm or undue distress"
if they did so.
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