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The quotes provided are normally directly from the original article, but typically whole sentences and paragraphs are omitted, often without indicating where the omission is, but without altering the order of presentation. In some cases people's names are removed, and replaced thus "[X]".

Date & reference Extracts (not necessarily contiguous)

This Is Lancashire

'CSA bleeding me dry'

A FATHER of two claims the bulk of his wage is being demanded by the Child Support Agency which based its assessment on overtime work he no longer gets. Mr Brian Greer claims the "unfair demand" on his wage leaves him with less than £100 a week - before paying his mortgage and other living costs. And he says he has considered giving up his full-time job, because he would be "better off on the dole".

Mr Greer, a wagon driver, earns a basic weekly wage of about £189 yet the CSA is demanding £405 a month. He said: "I have been told that the CSA should only be demanding 30 per cent of a person's wage, yet they are asking for more than half mine. I have explained this time and time again. Once, I even got through to someone who assured me a lesser payment would be accepted, but within weeks of paying it I had received a final demand for the larger amount. I feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall."

Sunday Times

'Incompetent' CSA scrapped

by Sebastian Hamilton, Westminster Correspondent

MINISTERS are preparing to abolish the Child Support Agency (CSA) after a series of damning reports showing that maladministration and incompetence are endemic. It will be replaced with a new unit with special powers to investigate the incomes of absent fathers and charge them a flat-rate "child levy". Single mothers will be given a cash bonus for co-operating with the new agency, which will be able to use Inland Revenue records to track down all the earnings of absent fathers.

The CSA, the brainchild of Baroness Thatcher, was one of the most controversial reforms in British social policy. Until then, child maintenance had been set by the courts but not enforced, leaving taxpayers to pay for bringing up millions of children abandoned by fathers. Its creation in 1993 provoked a backlash from fathers harried for backdated claims calculated under a highly complex formula. At least seven suicides were blamed on the agency. Single mothers accused agency staff of antagonising their former husbands or boyfriends but failing to ensure fair and regular maintenance payments.

Officials in the new unit will claim a straight percentage of the father's income for each child, allowing a base level to be kept aside for any new family. Recalcitrant fathers will have the money deducted directly under PAYE. Sources close to Baroness Hollis, the social security minister conducting the review, said last week that an entirely new system had to be created. "The CSA failed because of bad legislation, not bad staff," said one. "We have to tear up the Child Support Act and start again." Hundreds of jobs are already being shed and all senior managers have had to reapply for their positions.

Ministers have been shocked to discover that 40% of single parents refuse to co-operate with the CSA and thousands of staff are employed in chasing old debts or recalculating maintenance. "That is simply wasting our money. A flat-rate payment may mean rough justice for some but it is simple and effective and that is the price you have to pay," said the source.

Setting up the unit will need new legislation and a green paper is to be published soon after Easter. The unit also needs a name to distance it from the stigma of the CSA. Hollis has offered a bottle of champagne to any agency employee who can devise one.

This Is Lancashire

It won't go away

SIR: After reading the article concerning the CSA and Mr Greer I thought I had to write in reply to his letter because I really do feel sorry for him because this is just the beginning of a nightmare.

My husband and I have been trying to make sense of the CSA for the past four years. The spokesman for the CSA in your article says that if someone's circumstances change, changes will be made to the amount they require, but as people find out it takes them months to carry out a new assessment therefore causing great hardship and distress as me and my husband have found out. I would strongly advise Mr Greer and anybody else who has the misfortune to be hounded by the CSA to join N.A.C.S.A. the action group fighting the CSA. and get their M.P involved.

This Is Lancashire

CSA despair of fathers

A BOLTON dad has been forced to pay maintenance for three years to the drug addict mother of his son - even though he has been looking after the boy throughout that time. The shock case was raised in the Commons by Bolton MP Brian Iddon as he launched a devastating attack on the Child Support Agency.

One Bolton man tried to commit suicide because he was being hounded by the CSA. Another man spent £28 on a single phone call because he had to hold on the line for so long.

But the worst case concerned the dad who had to get his child back from his partner and then pay twice for his upkeep. "In one case, the mother was awarded care of the son for 18 months. Unfortunately, it became apparent that she was a drug addict. The father has now looked after the son for three years. He has been to me several times in desperation because he is still being made to pay child maintenance to the drug addict mother. "Although I have tried, I cannot persuade the Child Support Agency to stop the order."

He added: "One constituent tried to contact the CSA many times - unfortunately on a mobile phone. "When he got through, it took 45 minutes to get an answer to his query. He did not dare hang up because he was desperate to sort it out. That one call cost him £28."

This Is Lancashire

Get moving on reforms

WHAT more will it take before the reform of the rightly maligned Child Support Agency is carried out? The latest horror story raised in the Commons by Bolton MP Brian Iddon concerns a local father who has been forced to pay maintenance for three years to the drug addict mother of his son. This is despite the fact that the man has been caring for the boy throughout that time.

The Government has promised a "major reform". It cannot come soon enough for those fathers who are being unfairly hounded by the CSA in their bureaucracy-gone-mad idiocy.

This Is Lancashire

CSA is so unfair

WHAT a very unfair world it is when the Child Support Agency can allow £49 for a father to live off and yet they are allocating £70 for one child. I can't see the rhyme or reason for this.

He rents my house while we work away for 10 months of the year. If he rented through a private company, he would get a rent allowance. But because he rents from relatives it doesn't get taken into account. It is very unfair.

Electronic Telegraph

MPs condemn CSA over unpaid £1bn

THE Child Support Agency still has outstanding debts of more than £1.1 billion, of which £869 million - more than 70 per cent - may never be collected, a report revealed yesterday. The Public Accounts Committee issued one of the most damning indictments of the agency and said its inefficiency had led to 85 per cent of debt balances containing errors.

The agency, set up to ensure absent parents pay towards their children's upkeep, was causing "unnecessary hardship and suffering" to thousands of people, the committee of MPs said. The report said that the agency's accuracy target was "unacceptable" and it attacked the CSA's decision not to examine all past cases and put errors right but instead "to let hundreds of thousands of incorrect assessments hang fire until individual cases rise to the surface of attention".

Electronic Telegraph

'Complex' CSA to be given big shake-up

By Robert Shrimsley

"THIS Green Paper marks the beginning of a debate on welfare reform, not its conclusion", wrote Tony Blair in the foreword.

Reform of the CSA is designed to ensure that more absent parents meet their responsibilities to their children. The report said nearly a third of fathers paid nothing and that the agency was complex and bureaucratic. The document also regretted that two-thirds of lone mothers claiming income support were doing so to avoid securing maintenance from the absent father.

Electronic Telegraph

Fathers to pay set levy for child support

By Joy Copley, Political Staff

ABSENT fathers will have to pay a fixed proportion of income towards their children's upkeep under a planned reform of the Child Support Agency. The "rough justice" system would calculate maintenance on a simple percentage of take-home pay for each child. The non-resident parent's other costs, such as housing and travel to work, would not be taken into account. The current formula is regarded by the Government as byzantine and virtually unintelligible. Deciphering it takes up 90 per cent of CSA staff time.

A "root and branch" review of the agency was announced in last month's Green Paper on welfare reform and the results will be made public before the summer. The proposed straightforward approach is the favoured option of ministers. The exact percentage that absent parents will pay is still to be decided. One proposal is that fathers who do not live with their children should pay 15 per cent of their net income for the first child, five per cent for the second and a further five for the third.

This should free staff to work more efficiently on clearing the backlog of cases and chasing up reluctant payers. DSS officials have assessed that the new system, which has similarities to that used in Australia and New Zealand, will lead to significant administrative savings in the longer term. However, the danger for the Government is that a simplified approach could lead to allegations of rough justice. The number of women claiming "good cause" for not naming their child's father is down in some areas from 55 per cent to 20 per cent. The scheme is now being introduced nationally.

This Is Lancashire

At last the CSA is to be reformed

AT last there is a plan to reform the Child Support Agency, an organisation which has frequently been criticised for unfair tactics when chasing absent fathers. The basic principle that absent fathers should pay for the upkeep of their children is right. But the application of that principle has brought hundreds of charges of injustice and illogical thinking on the part of the officials who run the CSA.

Many fathers from broken marriages have claimed they have been left with no money to live on once the CSA have worked out what they should pay for the upkeep of their families. On the other hand there have been howls of indignation at the ease with which irresponsible men who have fathered children with several different women have been allowed to get away with paying nothing. The CSA has been accused of going for the the easy targets, fathers who have not deliberately covered their tracks .

The new system would calculate maintenance on a simple percentage of take-home pay for each child. The current formula is regarded by the Government as byzantine and virtually unintelligible. Deciphering it takes up to 90 per cent of CSA staff time. However, a system based on a percentage of take-home pay, which does not take into account individuals' circumstances, could re-kindle criticism about unfairness. Presumably the thinking is that it is up to the father to tailor his financial out-goings so that he can afford maintenance.

This Is Lancashire

Problems with CSA

SIR: I have been running the Oldham branch of the Network Against the Child Support Agency for six months

Over the last couple of months, it has become apparent from talking to mothers, that the C.S.A. is letting them down. The Parents With Care - a C.S.A. term not mine - are generally of the opinion that, because they are not receiving much, if any, money from the C.S.A. that their ex-partners are not paying much in the way of maintenance. However, this is not usually the case. The C.S.A. take vast amounts of money off the 'absent parent', again a C.S.A. term not mine, and hand over only a small percentage to the 'parent with care'. Most of the money going to the Treasury to pay for the benefits the P.W.C. is claiming - benefits that they have already paid for in their income tax and N.I. contributions. No one has to deal with the C.S.A, they can withdraw their authority for the C.S.A. to act on their behalf.

This Is Lancashire

CSA rule puts mum 'on the breadline'

A MOTHER-of-three says she has been forced to live on the breadline for failing to sign Child Support Agency forms. Furious [X], 36, has hit out at the CSA, who she claims are causing women to live in fear of "aggressive partners".

[X] split from her husband and applied for extra support for her three children. But her £97 per week food and clothing allowance for the children was reduced to £50 a week because she claims she failed to sign a consent form. The CSA need consent to pursue maintenance claims from the children's father.

[X], of Grosvenor Street, Bolton, said: "I feel like I am being blackmailed. Because I didn't sign this form, my money was reduced by nearly half. "I got a letter from the CSA saying that if I didn't sign it would be reduced further. I want the men of Bolton to realise that it is not women who are to blame. The CSA gives us no option. It's making aggressive husbands and partners worse."

However, the CSA says the benefit penalty was brought in to combat fraud and is automatic when parents refuse to co-operate. A spokesman for the CSA said: "The solution to all this lies completely in [X]'s own hands. If she provides us with the information on reasons why the CSA should not pursue any maintenance claims then we would look at her case individually. It could mean that we waive the penalty. "It is understandable that parents going through a crisis point do not want to hear from the CSA. But our concern for the welfare of the child or children is paramount."

This Is Lancashire

CSA has to change

SIR: In reference to your report in the BEN of May 15 concerning Ms Dawn Grundy and the Child Support Agency. I wish to congratulate Ms Grundy for standing up to this Agency. The CSA (Caring, Sharing Agency) do not CARE how little they leave the so-called absent parent to live on, or indeed their second family. They do not SHARE any of the monies they extract in the name of children, as the money is deducted pound for pound from any benefit received; therefore the children are no better off.

It is interesting to read that the spokesperson for the CSA says that the welfare of the children is paramount, yet reduces the funds required to keep three children by half. How are these children to be fed? This system can only lead to an increased level of violence towards women, because the absent parent can be thousands of pounds a year better off if they are violent to their ex-partners; the CSA will not pursue cases in this situation. The only people the CSA are concerned about is the 'absent parent' who is working and on PAYE, therefore a deduction of earnings order is easily applied to enable monies to be taken, not for children, but for the State. Nobody involved with the CSA is in the least happy with the system, or the performance of the Agency and this legislation must be changed immediately to make the system fair to all parties, especially the children.

Grimsby Evening Telegraph

Cash claim drove man to suicide

By a Grimsby Evening Telegraph Reporter

A Grimsby man who had mounting cash worries after beingtracked down by the CSA was found hanged in his home. A postmortem revealed Mr [X} had 150g of alcohol in his body per 100ml of blood. Grimsby deputy coroner David Overton recorded a verdict of suicide. The inquest heard Mr [X} was contacted by the CSA at the beginning of 1997 about a child he had fathered. At the time, Mr [X}, who worked as a deck hand, was married and had a two-year-old son. His mother told the inquest, held at Cleethorpes Town Hall: "This led ultimately to the CSA claiming a large sum of money from [X]. We were aware that this was something which gave great concern to [X] and imposed a great strain on his finances."

Electronic Telegraph

Fathers who live in fear

The Child Support Agency is still over-zealous in its pursuit of payments

Katrin Levy

AFTER three years of proceedings, [X]' divorce from his wife, [Y], was finally concluded in September 1997. He was in the process of putting his life together again - he had a new fiancée, a baby on the way and was sitting exams to become a licensed insolvency practioner - when a booklet and letter from the Child Support Agency (CSA) came through the letter-box. "At the time, I believed I had a mutual voluntary arrangement with my ex-wife, whereby I was giving her £35 a week, cash, for my daughter [Z]," says Ian. "So I ignored the letter." [Y], who has custody of [Z], five, had been living with her fiancé for two years. Consequently, the money was solely intended to cover the cost of [Z]'s day-to-day expenses. "I didn't have the time, on top of everything else, to fill in the booklet. I wrote the CSA a letter in which I explained that I had a long-standing agreement with my ex, and that I was already voluntarily giving her money for [Z]. I thought the CSA would be satisfied with an arrangement that we had agreed between ourselves."

According to Trevor Saunders, a spokeman for the CSA, this would normally be true. "But in this case the mother was claiming means-tested benefits. One of our roles is to try and reduce the amount the Government has to spend in support of single-parent families. Consequently, we had no choice but to contact the father." However, [Y] gave no indication to [X] that she knew anything about the CSA's involvement, so he assumed that their mutual agreement was still valid. Then, at the beginning of December 1997, a few days after his wedding, [X] received yet another letter from the CSA. "It said I was in payment arrears, and an income payment order would be taken out on my wages to the tune of £700 a month. "I panicked," he says. "We only had one salary coming in, and [A] was then seven months pregnant. If we had had to pay £700 on top of our rent and bills, it would have left me in debit to the tune of £50 a month. According to Trevor Saunders, the £700 was a last resort. "It was designed to shock him into opening the channels of communication with us. This rate can be punitive, but we needed to get the information from him."


Agency hunts mothers

By Clare Longrigg

The number of mothers targeted by the Child Support Agency after walking out on their families has trebled in three years. According to figures released by the agency yesterday, one in 20 absent parents is a woman, and 37,300 have been approached by the agency to pay child maintenance. In 1994, there were 4,900 absent mothers being dealt with by the agency."One in 20 absent parents are mothers, and this proportion is increasing all the time. "It remains the case that the vast majority of parents with care of children are women, but more and more mothers are living apart from their children. "Absent mothers have the same responsibilities as absent fathers, and will continue to be treated in exactly the same way by the agency."

The agency has 742,000 cases on its books, and a further 113,000 awaiting assessment. It is still viewed as an unmitigated disaster by all those affected. The figures follow reports that 70 per cent of women are refusing to give names of fathers, citing fear of violence. The agency may yet see an alarming rise in recorded instances of violent women.

Electronic Telegraph

Sharp rise in number of 'absent' mothers

THE number of mothers being targeted by the Child Support Agency after walking out on their families has trebled in three years, new figures show. One in 20 absent parents are women and 37,300 mothers have been approached by the CSA to pay child maintenance. Faith Boardman, the agency's chief executive, said: "The perception is that the agency is concerned solely with collecting maintenance from fathers, but this is not the case. Absent mothers have the same responsibilities as absent fathers and will continue to be treated in exactly the same way by the CSA."

In June 1994, the CSA was dealing with 4,900 absent mothers (3.2 per cent) but by February this year, the figure had risen to 37,300 (5.6 per cent). Julian Brazier, MP, President of the Conservative Family Campaign, said: "The figures don't surprise me. We have got into a vicious downward spiral. There is a tremendous selfishness and lack of respect about the impact on children."

Reading Chronicle


A Reading man who told friends the Child Support Agency was "after him" died after hurling himself from a bridge onto the M4 motorway an inquest heard this week. Reading Coroner's Court was told [X], 35, a supervisor at QTR Transport, had argued with his second wife, [Y], about his drinking and was depressed about money problems.

The Times

Single mothers opt out of CSA


THE number of single mothers effectively boycotting the Child Support Agency by refusing to name the fathers of their children has almost doubled in less than two years, according to a secret Whitehall report. Ministers are alarmed that the rise, from 40 to 70 per cent, is making it easier for absent fathers to pay nothing towards the maintenance of their children. New figures from the Department of Social Security show that 1.3 million children - 10 per cent of the total child population in Britain - are living in single-parent households supported entirely by the State.

"What these figures tell us is that mothers as well as fathers are opting out of the CSA because it is a system that is not seen to be working," a government source said.

The Sunday Telegraph

Mothers offered bounty to turn informer

By Tom Baldwin, Political Editor

SINGLE mothers will be offered a cash bonus if they agree to inform the authorities of the whereabouts and income of their children's absent fathers. The plan is part of a package of measures being unveiled by the Government next month designed to reform the controversial Child Support Agency. A 12-month review of the agency conducted by Baroness Hollis, the social security minister, has identified the refusal of many lone parents to provide information about their ex-boyfriends or husbands as one of the key reasons for its backlog of cases and its failure to cut welfare bills.

Lady Hollis will recommend that single mothers who have helped the CSA track down absentee fathers should keep some of their existing income from benefits - even if the payments from their former partners would normally disqualify them from income support. Ministers believe that the new policy of "disregarding" benefit income could help save money in the long term because it will give single mothers an incentive to help track down recalcitrant fathers.

The Telegraph

Fathers with two families to get CSA discount

By Jon Hibbs, Political Correspondent

ABSENT fathers who start a second family are to receive a discount on payments towards the upkeep of children from their first relationship. Ministers have decided to amend their plans to impose "rough justice" on non-resident parents to ensure greater fairness for fathers who have complained about the financial burden that they must bear. However, sources said yesterday that this would be off-set by a sliding scale of allowances according to the number of children in any second family. One source said: "It has to be simpler but we do not want it to be unjust."

Ministers are also keen to improve the incentives to persuade single mothers to co-operate with the CSA in tracking down absent fathers and forcing them to pay. Under the reform package, mothers on benefit and caring for children would be allowed to keep a proportion of any maintenance payments rather than surrender the money to the Treasury. Any extra money squeezed out of absent fathers is now simply deducted from the level of income support those mothers are receiving. This has sometimes deterred mothers from naming their former partner.

This Is Lancashire

CSA shake-up is long overdue

IT IS not before time that the government moves to shake up the child support system - because the existing service, though fine in principle, is a shambles in practice. Its well-known failures stem from the huge bureaucracy involved in getting absent parents to pay maintenance for their children. Not only were delays and evasion encouraged by this, but the Child Support Agency became seen as an oppressive set-up that targeted the easy-to-trace fathers who co-operated with the system while many mothers were discouraged from claiming maintenance, fearing that working with the CSA would lead to their state benefits being cut.

Now, a simplified formula is promised - one which aims to ensure more fathers pay rather than that fathers pay more. It may be a concession to the notion that the state must financially absorb more of the responsibilities of absent parents, but if the result is that more children in broken and single-parent homes get proper contributions to their upkeep, this shake-up will be worth it.


Paternity test by post condemned

By Jeremy Laurance and Charles ArthurS

The ad appeared in the Sunday Sport, sandwiched between those for Viagra and for sex counselling. It read: "Whose child is it? Are you really the father? Ring this number for confidential DNA testing." The DNA Testing Agency says in its advertisements: "The curious, suspicious or disbelieving who just want peace of mind, can now conduct paternity checks in the comfort of their own home. Do-it-yourself DNA tests are now available in Britain."

Yesterday the Human Genetics Advisory Commission (HGAC) criticised the agency, and David Hinchliffe, chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee, called for the tests to be banned. He accused the agency of exploiting the divisions between separated parents over Child Support Agency maintenance demands. "It's the children who could suffer most. I think (the agency) is blundering into a very dangerous area. They are enticing fathers . to carry out tests without any reference whatsoever to the child's feelings, or discussion with the mother. "


DIY paternity test 'should be banned'

By Sarah Boseley, Health Correspondent

A do-it-yourself DNA paternity test targeted at men seeking to dispute maintenance orders should be banned, it was said yesterday. A company is advertising the £300 testing kits to send by post to men unsure whether a child is theirs. Taking a swab from inside his cheek and another from the child, the swabs are returned for analysis and the result is available five weeks later. Yesterday David Hinchcliffe, chairman of the Commons health select committee voiced strong opposition to the tests. "It is enticing fathers who may have a grievance about the Child Support Agency assessment to undertake a do-it-yourself job on the basis that that might enable them to dispute paternity.

Martin Richards, director of the Centre for Family Research at Cambridge university, said people should not be denied access to the truth. But he added: "I really don't see how any commercial testing organisation can really determine where a sample it is testing comes from. "If people wish to deceive them and, for example, get a child tested when the parents of that child - or the people who appear to be the parents of that child - don't wish that to be done, I don't really see how that can be stopped once this becomes generally available." There would be nothing to stop grandparents testing without the supposed parents' knowledge, he said.

The Guardian

DNA paternity test should be banned

By Beatrix Campbell

The DNA Testing Agency, a commercial firm, is offering men, it transpired yesterday, the opportunity to settle once and for all one of the great mysteries of life on earth: when is, or is not, a man a father. In the olden days before the Child Support Agency, the desire to know was driven by a desire for paternity. But since the state has enforced a connection between sperm and financial support, and thus brought a blunt instrument to the equalisation of men and women's economic responsibility for children, all this has changed. The men's movement re-interpreted the CSA's requirement that fathers, like mothers, contribute to the costs of their children, as evidence that women were taking over the world.

More than 25 years ago the consultant obstetrician E E Phillipp reported to a symposium on embryo transfer that blood tests on between 200 and 300 women in a town in the south-east of England revealed that 30 per cent of their children could not have been fathered by the men whose blood groups had also been sampled. The group wasn't large, admitted Dr Phillipp, "but large enough to give us a great shock."


CSA sums still wrong

By Anne Perkins, Political Correspondent

The Child Support Agency gets a quarter of estimates wrong, five years after it was created to settle maintenance for children of separated parents. Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, said the agency's accuracy target had been cut, from 85 per cent to 75 per cent. "Errors are still being made. In addition, the agency's performance has left a legacy of error that continues to affect amounts being paid," he said, condemning "erroneous or unexplained adjustments" in the complex formula. The NAO, the taxpayers' accountants, found that the CSA had £1 billion of maintenance arrears and £800 million was considered "uncollectable".

David Davis, the Tory MP whose Public Accounts Committee last year demanded a higher accuracy target for the CSA, said last night that its management illustrated "a culture of complacency. "Last year we concluded that it was unacceptable that the agency worked to an accuracy target of only 85 per cent. We recommended the target be raised. Instead they have lowered it and now aim only for 75 per cent." The CSA said that Sir John recognised the complexity of the legislation the agency had to implement, and that double the number of cases were being processed.

The NAO found part of the problem lay in past errors, but said that in the past year alone, nearly £5 million was overpaid by absent parents and nearly £16 million underpaid, while £150 million of mistakes were made in the year's £412 million of maintenance assessments.

Society Gazette

When the CSA slumbers Law

Changing the child formula

District Judge Roger Bird offers a guide through the changing maze of the government's child support system So the government is going to change the formula for child support cases making the amount of support payable a percentage of the absent parent's net income, rising in proportion to the number of children. The present formula is too complicated and means there are gross delays while staff rack their brains over how to add it all up. What a surprise.

"The greatest failure of public administration in the present century". That is how the Child Support Agency (CSA) was described by Dr SM Cretney, a leading family law academic. Could it be that he was right? And why has no-one the courage to abolish the whole monstrosity now and put the families who suffer at its hands out of their misery.

Grimsby Evening Telegraph

Workers desert Child Support Agency

The Child Support Agency is facing a staff crisis with more than 1,200 workers leaving so far this year, union leaders have claimed.
The Public and Commercial Services Union said poor morale and low pay had caused staff to quit the agency in droves.
However, officials at the CSA, set up five years ago to collect maintenance payments from absent parents, claimed there was no staffing crisis, said BBC Radio 5 Live.

Lancashire Evening Telegraph


A man involved in a long-running dispute with the Child Support Agency hanged himself after a night out. An inquest into the death of [X], 25, of Whalley Road, Clitheroe, heard that on the day of his death £203 had been deducted from his pay of £293. [Y], a colleague at Ultraframe, in Clitheroe, said [X] was concerned about the amount of money the Child Support Agency was taking from his wage and about the fact that he was not seeing a lot of his three year old son. The inquest heard that [X] had taken three months unpaid leave from work and gone to visit friends in Australia. When he returned in May, there were arrears in his child support payments. His supervisor at work, [Z], said that after his return Andrew had struggled to come to terms with new working methods and his problems had eventually led to disciplinary procedure.

Coroner Andre Rebello read a case history provided by the Child Support Agency which suggested that [X] had not responded when case review forms were issued.

Yorkshire Evening Press


A father committed suicide after receiving a £300 a month demand from the Child Support Agency, an inquest was told. [A], a 33-year-old clerical officer with BT, could not afford the money because he was already paying the mortgage and all the bills for his former wife and their child, said his father, [B], in a statement at the hearing at Scarborough. Mr [A], of Thomas Street, Barlby Road, Selby, had been found dead in his fume-filled car at a quarry at Flixton near Scarborough after several previous suicide attempts, the inquest heard. His wife [C] said in a statement that he had been depressed about money. On one occassion she found him hanging from the attic with a flex around his neck, and he had tried to kill himself by fixing a hose to his car exhaust and taking an overdose. When she left him, taking their baby with her, he had told her he would take his life. "I told him the threat would not make me return," she said.

[D], who worked with Mr Harrison at BT, said they had started a relationship and she became pregnant. They quarrelled and the CSA "took him to the cleaners financially" over his marriage.

The Times

Father's win over the CSA

A father-of-two has won a year-long battle with the Child Support Agency over a demand for £21,000 which he said drove him to the edge of suicide. When it deducted £116 a week from the wages of Tony Levene, 40, an information officer for Kirklees Council social services, he said it left him with insufficient money to feed himself or pay bills. He threatened to seek a judicial review in the High Court. Yesterday he said: "The CSA has admitted it was wrong." He has paid maintenance to his ex-wife for his two sons under a 1992 divorce court settlement, but a year ago the CSA claimed arrears going back to 1993. A CSA spokesman said it was unable to discuss individual cases.

This Is Lancashire

Don't moan - do something

I WRITE with reference to the story (Sept 4) about the CSA and Mrs Nagle's "starving kids".

She is not alone in her experiences with the CSA but we have to live with it. My review took 11 months and at the end of it I received £2.35 to feed my child. If someone lives in a three-bed semi and owns a car, then surely these should be the first things to go. Mrs Nagle should also receive a 25 per cent reduction on her poll tax. So perhaps instead of wallowing in self-pity Mrs Nagle might consider a part-time job, as other single parents have to do. This would at least feed her kids and help her to stop feeling sorry for herself. There are lots of people a lot worse off than her - such as the homeless. She must realise that life as a one-parent family is not a bed of roses.

This Is Lancashire

Reforming the CSA

There are proposals to reform the CSA and we, the network against the CSA (NACSA) have been asked for our views of the green paper proposals. This month we will be holding two meetings, in order to give those affected by the CSA more opportunity to change the future of child support.

In November there will be a NACSA lobby of Parliament, and we plan to hire minibuses if enough interest is shown. This is the best chance we the public have had since the introduction of the CSA in 1993 to get a fair system of child maintenance in place, don't miss it

Sheffield Star


A divorced father-of-two found dead in his fume filled car blamed his own death on the Child Support Agency. Police officers who attended the scene found an envelope addressed to his father and sisters on the dashboard. In it was a note in which [X] begged his family not to blame girlfriend [Y] for his death. She left him just weeks before resentful that he had to pay almost £300 a month to his ex-wife towards the upkeep of his children [A], eight, and [B], seven, according to Sheffield coroner Chris Dorries.

The Times

Child support: will Blair crack the system?


(Professor Barton is director of the Centre for the Study of the Family, Law and Social Policy at Staffordshire University)

Are we finally going to get a fair system for maintaining the children of broken families? Child support has been the albatross of successive governments, but perhaps this will be "first time lucky" after the 1991 and 1995 Acts. True, the latest Green Paper has the same sort of vacuous, not to say hypocritical, title (Children First; A New Approach to Child Support) as its predecessors. At least it is not covered in rainbow pictures of photogenic youngsters. But is its actual content a portent of an improvement? While no system could please, or even do justice to, all the stakeholders - the children, the resident parent, the non-resident parent and the taxpayer - the 1998 paper attempts to remedy the weaknesses of the existing system without reviving the old ones. For example, the ministers have rejected a return to the old court-based discretionary method. Margaret Thatcher was quite right to scorn the huge variations from one court to another, the last of which colluded with parents in transferring the cost to the taxpayer.

Today the courts would be swamped by the number of applications and the need to keep them under constant review. But the Conservatives' efforts (passed nem con in the House of Commons) have been followed by some dreadful events. Nearly two million children receive nothing from their non-resident parent; 70 per cent of lone mothers on income support seek to avoid making a child-support application; 40 per cent of resident parents admit to thwarting contact arrangements; and 40 per cent of fathers lose all contact with their children within two years of separation. One researcher has said that it is "the vocal, the articulate and persistent" who succeed in obtaining the right assessment. On the other hand, it is not dissimilar qualities that have enabled "other clients" to evade their responsibilities by not, for example, disclosing the existence of a new partner. And some of those attempting to defraud the agency also complained about its bureaucratic inefficency.

The present Green Paper has something else in common with its two 1990s' predecessors: it contains an excellent analysis of current shortcomings. Whether its proposals will merely cause a fourth edition to do the same remains to be seen.

Sheffield Star 29


Child Support Agency bosses have ordered an investigation after a father-of-two killed himself - and blamed his death on them. Officials from the controversial agency have written to the family of [X] promising to launch an investigation into his death. Recording a verdict that Mr Ashton took his own life Coroner Chris Dorries said a number of factors may have been responsible. He said: "It is quite apparent that Mr Ashton had a number of problems facing him. In all respects this was a particularly sad case."

This Is Lancashire

Daft deal

I WOULD like to ask M Schmid (No need for gloom, Your Views Monday, October 26), is this person living in the real world? Disabled people are losing their benefits, people weeks away from retirement are having to sign on the dole -- is this what you call a new deal? First it was the CSA after absent, non-paying fathers, but only the decent were hounded. Now it's 'get the genuine sick people on the dole' no matter what the age group, when, in effect, there are young, able-bodied people walking the streets with no jobs.

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Page last updated: 14 September, 2005 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003