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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)

1999-01-08
This Is Lancashire

MPs back plans to reform `unjust' CSA

TWO Bolton MPs have welcomed plans to reform the controversial Child Support Agency.

Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling has targeted the agency as one of his top priorities for 1999. Bolton South East Labour MP Dr Brian Iddon said: "This is marvellous news. I am very pleased. "I have just received the result of a Mori poll from MPs which shows that the CSA is the biggest item in their postbags, like it is in mine. "It is very hard to ever get a successful result with the CSA. Its like boxing a jellyfish. This is long overdue."

Bolton North East Labour MP David Crausby added: "I am very pleased about this. It's one of my top priorities too. "It's a major concern of my constituents and I am fully behind the reforms, which are long overdue. "What we need is a just system and currently there is no justice in the system. It's far too crude."

Mr Darling has promised a "radical simplification" for the way payments from absent parents are calculated and enforced. He is determined to restore public confidence in an agency whose blundering and bureaucracy has been blamed for a string of suicides and second marriage splits. Officials have been accused of relentlessly pursuing absent mums and dads for often grossly inflated payments.

1999-01-11
This Is Lancashire

Tackling the CSA?

THERE are probably many of your readers who are having problems with the CSA and who do not realise there is an organisation which can guide them through their problems.

There is no need to feel alone and isolated when the CSA imposes itself upon you. The organisation is known as NACSA - National Association for Child Support Action.

There are many ways to fight back and many things the "victims" can do to help themselves.

1999-02-10
Nottingham Evening Post

These 4 articles refer to the same case.

(From NACSA BOTD)

A father killed himself after blaming the Child Support Agency for leaving him penniless. [X], 40, sent a suicide note to the agency saying he had "decided to die" because he could not afford to live. Mr [X]’s parents - [Y] and [Z] - today criticised the agency and said it had driven their son to suicide. Mrs [Z], 60, said: "He felt he could not go on any longer because the CSA was taking so much money. "What they were doing was wrong.He just wanted to sort out sensible payments and now he is dead." He said Mr [X], of St James Court, had sent several notes, including the one to the CSA. It read: "I will not work again because you will only steal 50 per cent of my earnings. I will not live with what I have left and have decided to die." In a note found on his bed, he wrote: "Life is not worth living with the CSA taking so much money." The inquest heard he was divorced in October and was paying £62 a week maintenance for his 11-year-old son. Mrs [Z], from Lincolnshire, told the hearing her son had tried to take his life beforewhen he came depressed after his marriage ended. He had got his life back in order, however, and was doing well until the CSA started demanding payments.

CSA spokesman Ian Cuddy daid the agency would not take more than 30 per cent of someone’s income. He added: "It is tragic when someone takes their own life. The CSA touches peoples lives when they are already under great stress but we are always willing to discuss individual problems."

1999-02-11
The Guardian

These 4 articles refer to the same case.

(From NACSA BOTD)

A father sent a note to the Child Support Agency before electrocuting himself at his flat, an inquest in Nottingham was told yesterday. [X], aged 40, of Hucknall in Nottinghamshire, was found dead on February 1 after the agency contacted police. The note read: "I will not work again because you will only steal 50 per cent of my earnings. I will not live with what I have left and have decided to die."

A spokesman for the CSA said it recognised people became involved with it when they were already under great stress, and was always willing to discuss individual problems.

1999-02-11
Eastern Daily Press

These 4 articles refer to the same case.

(From NACSA BOTD)

A 40-year-old father sent a suicide note to the Child Support Agency before electrocuting himself. [X], of Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, was found dead on February 1 after the CSA contacted police to say they had received the note. An inquest heard that Mr [X] had sent several notes including the one to the CSA. It read: "I will not work again because you will only steal 50 per cent of my earnings. I will not live with what I have left and have decided to die." Another note found at his home read: "Life is not worth living with the CSA taking so much money." His mother [Z], 60, of Sleaford, Linconshire, said: "He was very upset when his marriage broke up, but managed to get over that. Then the CSA were asking for more than £60 a week and that left him with about £80 to live on."

Ian Cuddy, spokesman for the CSA, said: "It is tragic when someone takes their own life. "The CSA touches people’s lives when they are under great stress, but we are always willing to discuss individual problems."

1999-02-12
Hucknall & Bulwell Dispatch

These 4 articles refer to the same case.

(From NACSA BOTD)

Left with only £3 to live on, a Hucknall man wrote a note that said: "I have decided to die". The mother of a Hucknall man who killed himself claims the CSA made life impossible for him. [X] (40) died from electrocution at his flat in St James’s Court, as was exclusively reported in last weeks Dispatch.

Mrs [Z] of Sleaford, Lincolnshire, said her son had tried to take his life previously when he became depressed after his marriage ended, But he had started to get back on his feet and was doing well until the CSA started demanding payments from him.

1999-02-26
BBC

'Father' claims for 12-year paternity

The BBC's Rod Jones: "DNA tests proved the baby could not have been his son"

A Yorkshire man who made paternity payments for 12 years for a child that is not his is seeking compensation, potentially opening the way for dozens of similar cases. Ian Gould, from Rotherham, was named in a paternity claim in 1981, but has since discovered through a DNA test that he is not the child's father. He was initially identified as the father after a blood test showed that he shared the same blood group as the child, even though more than a third of the UK population share the same type.

The Child Support Agency has already repaid the money Mr Gould gave towards the child's upbringing since the organisation was formed in 1994. But the CSA insists that it cannot be responsible for payments made before it came into existence. Instead, Mr Gould is pursuing a claim for compensation with the backing of his local MP. The agency said it is aware of 74 similar cases, but has acknowledged there could be many more.

1999-03-01
Lincolshire Echo Online

CSA DROVE MY SUICIDE SON TO GRAVE

by Mark Charlton

A distraught mother whose son took his own life after a struggle to pay CSA demands is calling for a better deal for dads. [X] killed himself because he was unable to cope with paternity payments to children from a previous marriage. Today, his devastated mum, [Y], who lives just outside Lincoln, said in his darkest hours no-one could have known what he was going through."He was in hell," she said. "There was nobody he could turn to who could understand. I think there should be a support group for men in this situation, someone to turn to for advice." "[X] was always happy to provide for his son and daughter," said Mrs [Y]. "He would send them money and parcels of clothes. He was a hard working father and when he lost his job, too proud to sign on the dole." Mrs [Y] said she would be pleased to hear from anyone who would be prepared to lend advice to struggling fathers in similar situations. [X] wouldn’t want anyone to go through what he went through, amd neither would I," she said.

CSA spokeswoman Sue Stagg said usually when they are called in people are already under great pressure. But she said there were ways of appealing. "Our customer care is there for anyone who has got arrears, they don't have to paying off a huge sum," she said.

1999-03-08
Guardian

CSA to lose lone parents on low pay

By David Brindle, Social Services Correspondent

The Child Support Agency is to be relieved of up to 180,000 cases, more than a fifth of its workload, under government plans to rehabilitate the much-criticised organisation. Ministers have decided that lone parents receiving a state top-up of low earnings should no longer be required to co-operate with the agency. The 182,000 lone parents affected will also be able to keep all child maintenance paid by a former partner. At present, they can keep only £15 a week before the Government starts clawing it back. The changes, part of a package of reform of the CSA to be announced in May, have delighted welfare groups.

Maeve Sherlock, director of the National Council for One Parent Families, said: 'This is a major step forward. In an ideal world, no lone parent would be required to co-operate with the agency under any circumstances. 'With far more money going to children, lone parents will be in a much better position to decide what's good for themselves and their families.' The changes have come about because of the coincidence of CSA reform and the replacement later this year of family credit, the benefit which supplements low pay, by the working families tax credit. Although the Treasury has costed the changes at £40 million a year, ministers are anxious to demonstrate that the new tax credit is a clean break with the past. Dawn Primarolo, the Paymaster General, has been particularly influential in securing agreement on the shift.

Baroness Hollis, Social Security Minister, said: 'What's important is that the children will see their parents coming to a civilised arrangement, sending a strong message, particularly to young boys, about what being a father means.'

1999-03-16
This Is Lancashire

Mother's day protest

BOLTON woman Sara was among a special line-up who held an unusual Mother's Day Celebration and Protest on Sunday. While millions of families celebrated Mother's Day in a host of traditional ways, the mother-of-two was among a group of women who gathered in London to highlight the cases of those placed in a variety of horrific and exceptional circumstances. Sara was forced to flee 200 miles from Bolton to escape a violent partner, as a result, she claims, of the Child Support Agency.

The event was organised by the Single Mothers' Self-Defence group. A spokesman explained: "This is in response to the concerted Government attacks on mothers. "The group is supported by almost 100 organisations throughout the UK and will be presenting its opposition to the Government Green Paper 'Child Support, a New Approach', which we feel would invite more violence against single mothers."

When mum Sara realised she had to get away from her violent partner SARA was breast feeding her baby when her partner grabbed her ankle, twisted it and dragged her off the settee. At that point the young mother realised she had to leave her violent partner - before he killed them both.

But the defiant 29-year-old is keen to publicise her story to help others in a similar position to escape not only a bullying, violent partner, but the Government bodies, who she claims prey on the vulnerability of a frightened mother.

Frightened for her life, Sara fled with her child to a women's refuge, unaware she was pregnant with her second daughter. She got an injunction out against the partner, and an eviction notice so she could move back into the flat.Sara moved to another part of London, but he managed to track her down. She said: "He would follow me while I did my shopping, or often I would find him waiting for me around a corner. He threatened to kill us. He said he would come around while we were sleeping and burn the house down."

And it was at that point that the Child Support Agency also began to get involved. Sara said: "They tried to force me to divulge details about him. I was frightened and explained to them I did not want to make him angry. They knew about our past, but threatened that they would cut off my income support if I did not help them. "It was the first time in my life that I had ever needed to be on benefits. I did not realise they had no right to stop my money."

Sara's fears were almost immediately realised. Almost as soon as the CSA contacted her partner, he called round to her flat. She said: "He hammered on my door, but I would not open it. He shouted for me to come to the window. I did, carrying our child, and he threw a brick directly at us. Fortunately it missed."

Sara said: "I did not tell anyone where I was going. But one month after arriving here, the CSA contacted me about the paternity of my second child. Again, I explained the situation. They still tried to press me into giving details to them." It was then that Sara read an article in the BEN which helped transform her life. She explained: "I read about a woman in a similar situation and that she had found help with the group, Legal Action for Women. I got in touch with the number given and they helped me write a letter to the CSA.

1999-03-26
VNUNET

Stormy times ahead for the DSS IT super project

Can a complete overhaul of the benefits system succeed in stamping out fraudulent claims? The biggest civilian IT project in Europe is already delayed. Programming work to rebuild all the Department of Social Security's benefits systems will finally start in a few weeks, but can it succeed? Next month, after more than two years of preparation costing #3.4 million in taxpayers' money, developers will begin creating the largest non military database in Europe. The customer is the Department of Social Security (DSS). In line with the government's history of IT purchases, the prime contractor is EDS. Dubbed Accord, Europe's biggest civilian IT project is scheduled to take eight years to implement and will cost hundreds of millions of pounds. Its goal is to create one database holding the records of every UK benefit claimant, past and present. It will handle about 50 million transactions a week, make payments to 24 million people and attempt to limit benefit fraud, now running at an estimated #3 billion a year.

Problems with the current system include:
* No link between the Child Support Agency (CSA) and child benefit systems.

The income support and child support agency systems are to be complete by April 2001. Information about the current CSA system is well documented because of the serious problems that developed shortly after it was installed at breakneck speed. EDS supplied the existing system to the CSA in 1992 in just 10 months, following pressure from the then Tory government to get the new agency up and running quickly. There was only time to deploy an off the shelf system, used by the State of Florida, which had different requirements to the CSA. The system proved unable to handle changes to the CSA's business process and the CSA now admits, "the task of the IT system [became] almost impossible in terms of tracking cases." The problems were compounded by the complex formula used for calculating support payments from absent parents, and by widespread lack of cooperation from those parents. The result was an explosion of inaccurate personal data.

The chairman of the National Association for Child Support Action (NACSA), Andy Farquarson, said: "The CSA's reliance on its computer system has generated more complaints from our members than almost any other aspect of the agency's operation. NACSA believes IT problems are a significant factor in the CSA's notorious inefficiency." The CSA is anxious not to rush ahead and repeat the same mistakes. Government ministers are hoping that a White Paper on reform of government machinery, due in May, will mark the end of years of complaints and criticism of the CSA, including claims that a litany of agency blunders has driven some fathers to suicide. Arguing that there is no point in computerising a mess, Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned in March last year: "We are not convinced the agency's strategy of introducing a new computer system is sensible until high levels of error in the underlying information are removed." In reply, the CSA was able to assure the committee only that it was, "reasonably confident we can achieve what is being set for us." By July, the CSA chief executive Faith Boardman and DSS minister Baroness Hollis were again reassuring MPs that the agency was not going to rush into reforms.

The CSA and EDS will have less than two years to install the replacement IT system to support the reforms while also trying to clear a backlog of cases. The EDS consortium has been handed the task of preparing the plans for correcting or 'cleansing' the CSA's data on benefit claimants and parents. The plans will be completed by November. How long the actual cleansing will take is not known. If EDS waits to start the system rewrite until the data is ready, it will have little time to complete the job. So is the CSA biting off more than it can chew? Tory PAC member Geoffrey Clifton-Brown is certainly worried about the project and has now pledged to call for an investigation by the National Audit Office. He fears that given the size of the data cleansing problem, the agency is taking on "over hasty timescales". He added: "It seems unfortunate that the PAC should recommend in March that the agency should not rush implementation of the new computer system, and yet in November the agency appears to be ignoring that advice without even knowing the scale of the task of cleansing inaccurate data."

CSA spokesman Ian Cuddy defended the plans. "The agency is not ignoring the PAC recommendation. The agency has already identified that it is essential to have accurate data before it is transferred onto a new computer system," he said. It will be more than a year before we find out who is right. EDS will certainly need careful project management to ensure that Accord passes off without falling over at the first hurdle.

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Page last updated: 28 November, 2005 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003