1999 articles - 3rd quarter
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Child support: the picture outside the UK
The UK may consider punitive moves like withdrawing driving licences
The British government is to look at other countries' strategies
for getting absent parents to pay for their children.
The USA operates a policy of jailing or confiscating an absent
parent's driving licence if they refuse to pay maintenance. Dan
McDonald, director of the Child Support Department in the state
of Arkansas, says these are just two of a panoply of measures the
government can take. They include seizing a parent's property, including
their house and belongings, docking wages and reporting arrears
to credit bureaux agencies. He said: "We can incarcerate people
we pick up and find that they are determined not to pay child support
or cannot pay. France also has tougher measures for tracking child
maintenance than the UK.
Net closes on absent parents
Absent parents face a financial crackdown
Absent parents face a financial crackdown. The government is likely
to propose that those who give false information to the agency or
do not co-operate with it will face criminal action. They could
be punished with a fine of up to £1,000. The White Paper is
also likely to say the government will look at tough measures taken
abroad to crack down on absent parents. They include taking driving
licences and passports away from non-compliant parents. The White
Paper is also thought likely to propose a £10 a week payment
to single parents on Income Support. Currently, as many as 70% of
parents on benefits are no better off if they shop their absent
partners to the CSA or not because, if they do, they lose benefit.
Last year, the Commons was told that 80% of self-employed people
failed to pay the correct maintenance owing to loopholes which allowed
them to avoid declaring their full earnings. The National Council
for One Parent Families is calling for the CSA to become part of
the Inland Revenue in a bid to simplify assessments even further.
The turbulent history of the CSA
Workers in the CSA face abuse and tears.
Since the Child Support Agency was launched in 1993, it has come
under fierce criticism. Established to settle maintenance for children
of separated parents, it aimed to ensure that absent parents were
held financially responsible for their children. But the complicated
formula needed to work out payments has led to mistakes and delay,
causing much misery and anger. In some cases, absent parents have
been overcharged, but in others - such as that of self-employed
people - as many as 80% have avoided paying all the money they should
because of loopholes in the system.
The campaign group Familes Need Fathers says the agency is a failure
and promotes "the prevailing social prejudice that fathers
are irresponsible, feckless, and only relevant to the lives of their
children in financial terms". It says the Child Support Act,
which the agency bases its work on, unfairly discriminates against
unmarried fathers, requiring them to provide financial support when
they have no other legal status with their child. It wants fathers
to be given more rights over contact with their children.
Absent fathers won't be able to go very far
BY JILL SHERMAN, WHITEHALL EDITOR
ABSENT fathers risk losing their passports and driving licences
if they refuse to pay child maintenance, under changes to the Child
Support Agency to be announced today. Withholding maintenance would
become a criminal offence resulting in jail sentences of up to six
months but ministers believe that taking away licences and passports
could prove more effective for first-time offenders.
Similar schemes have been adopted in America and parts of Europe
and are working well.
radical reform, but not just yet
by BBC social affairs correspondent Kim Catcheside
Fathers could be fined up to a £1,000 for misleading or failing
to cooperate with the Child Support Agency (CSA) in tough new measures
announced by the government on Thursday.... The changes are a response
to what the Government admits is the failure of the CSA. But organisations
representing absent parents say it could mean rough justice for
many because it will not take enough account of individual circumstances.
The government says there will be concessions for low earners and
those with second families, but that there can be no compomise with
the principle that ALL parents are financially responsible for their
children. The new flat rate will mean that, on average, parents
will pay less maintenance, but the government is gambling it can
offset that by making more absent parents pay.
But the changes will not take effect until 2001 at the earliest,
a target date which could be subject to delay, because the proposals
cannot be introduced until a new computer is set up to deal with
it. Following recent problems at the Passport Office, it is unlikely
that the government will want to risk introducing changes until
it is absolutely confident that the new CSA computer is working
properly. In the meantime, up to a million families will be stuck
with a system which has been condemned as ineffective and inadequate.
absent parents 'will not work'
The government has announced plans to make failure to pay maintenance
a criminal offence in its White Paper on the Child Support Agency
(CSA), published on Thursday. This is to be accompanied by a fine
and possibly a jail sentence. The National Association for the Care
and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro) describes the jail option
as "a backward step towards the debtors' prison". Director
of policy Paul Cavadino said: "Past experience shows that imprisoning
maintenance defaulters hardens their attitudes and rarely makes
them produce the money." He added that imprisonment left children
no better off and meant the state had to pick up the tab for jail
Families Need Fathers welcomed moves to simplify the formula for
calculating maintenance, but said the measures proposed to chase
up defaulting parents were "rather draconian". Its chairman
Jim Parton said: "It looks like more dad-bashing as usual."
A spokesman for the National Association for Child Support Action
(NACSA) said it welcomed proposals to give parents on benefits more
cash, but said the £10 a week benefit disregard was lower
than the government had proposed in opposition. "The more money
that goes to children, the more we like it," said the spokesman.
Kim Sparrow of the Single Mothers' Self-Defence Union said it was
against forcing parents to shop their former partners. It wants
mothers to be allowed a choice and fears the White Paper proposals
could increase domestic abuse.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents
many staff working at the CSA welcomed the new simplified formula,
saying it would "help parents and staff and greatly improve
compliance and debt collection". But it said the government
needed to go further to ensure staff conditions and pay were improved.
It claimed a quarter of staff a year were leaving due to low morale
and poor management.
The National Council for One Parent Families said the White Paper
was "the last chance to rehabilitate child support". If
it failed to deliver, it said, the Inland Revenue should take over
Lincolnshire Echo Online
launches new crackdown on absent parents
By Kristiina Cooper, Parliamentary Staff
Absent parents who fail to give financial support to their children
are to face stiffer penalties. Under new Government plans, fathers
and also mothers could lose their driving licences, passports or
go to jail. Fathers who delay the process by denying paternity also
face tougher treatment. In future, they will have to prove they
are not the father if they were married to the mother when the child
CSA officials will be given greater powers to obtain tax records
to assess income, a reform aimed at self-employed people. 'This
will make sure that fathers who run around in the company Porsche
but plead poverty to their children can't get away with it,' said
Mr Darling. Teenage fathers will also not escape their responsibilities
and will be pursued by the CSA.
Changes in maintenance will apply just to new cases
writes Jill Sherman
Reform of CSA to be delayed
FAR-REACHING reforms to the Child Support Agency are to be delayed
until after the next general election and even then will apply only
to new cases, Alistair Darling admitted yesterday. The Government
also announced that it is to spend £28 million on management
consultants and business managers from the private sector to improve
the agency's administration, which has been under constant attack
since the CSA was formed six years ago.
Those who repeatedly refuse to make payments, or pay late, will
be liable to fines of up to £1,000 or prison. Ministers are
also considering confiscating the passports and driving licences
of repeat offenders. Other measures in the White Paper include allowing
the tax records of parents to be inspected so that officials can
assess their income. A loophole allowing men to deny they had fathered
their child will also be closed. In future absent fathers will have
to prove they are not the father of a child.
Caring father says system is unfair
MIKE FARR says the Child Support Agency has unfairly hounded him
for the past six years even though he has equal shared care of his
daughter Laura, 6. He has refused to make any payments. Mr Farr,
35, split up from his wife Melanie five years ago when she left
the marital home for another man. They decided at the time that
he would not pay maintenance because they would equally share the
care of Laura. He paid his wife £30,000 for her share of the
family home. "Then Melanie changed her mind and I found I was
chased by the CSA for payments," Mr Farr said. "I explained
that I was caring for Laura four days out of seven but they still
said I had to pay."
Under CSA rules, fathers pay maintenance for shared care but this
is half the amount they have to pay if they are not looking after
them at all. The CSA demanded £101 a week when Mr Farr was
earning £18,000 a year. After several tribunal cases, the
CSA agreed that he was the parent carer and agreed not to pursue
Darling seeks a more effective Child Support Agency
The founders of the Child Support Agency had laudable intentions:
to ensure that errant parents pay for their children's upbringing
and to improve the lot of single mothers. But for many families
their intentions paved the road to hell. The CSA became a monstrous
bureaucracy, chasing responsible parents and wrecking the families
it was meant to support. Although the last Government tinkered with
the child maintenance regulations, the entire system required a
thorough overall. Yesterday Alistair Darling, the Social Security
Secretary, published a White Paper which promises to address many
of the CSA's failings. Mr Darling has wisely recognised that for
a system to be workable and effective, it must be both simple and
tough. Such an approach will be criticised but, for the sake of
the children, it is the right one.
The Secretary of State must should tread with care. Given that
CSA officials have been stuck behind their desks form-filling, their
existing powers to hound parents and extract money have never been
properly tested. Furthermore, if parents are locked up, or unable
to drive to work, they cannot earn an income and therefore cannot
contribute towards their children's upkeep, undermining the purpose
of the whole exercise. Mr Darling must ensure that the CSA turns
to these measures only as a last resort, and then targets the reckless,
not the responsible but stretched parent. Another burst of over-exuberance
would once again bring the CSA into disrepute.
Society is paying the price of its cowardice
Don't cringe before these child brutes
says Roger Scruton
The Government has decided to endow the Child Support Agency with
the power to punish negligent fathers by removing their passports
and driving licences. All well and good. But irresponsible parents
produce antisocial children, and it is tempting to think that punishment
would be far more effective if directed at them.
(The rest of the article is nothing to do with the CSA).
Long wait before CSA is overhauled
By Jon Hibbs, Political Correspondent
SWEEPING reforms of the Child Support Agency announced yesterday
will not be fully implemented until well into the next century because
of the scale of the cash collection problem with which the organisation
is struggling. Alistair Darling, the Social Security Secretary,
acknowledged that "root and branch" proposals to simplify
the system of child support would apply only to new cases from the
end of 2001, with existing cases not coming on stream until much
later. The Tories mocked ministers for waiting for more than two
years since the general election before unveiling yesterday's White
David Willetts, the shadow social security spokesman, said that
it had already taken ministers longer to reach a decision about
the overhaul than it took the CSA they criticised to make its assessments.
"It will be more than four and a half years since Labour was
elected before we see any change in the regime and the whole thing
now looks as if it will drift into the next Parliament," he
Mr Darling countered by announcing that a team of 30 middle-managers
and advisers from banks and other private sector institutions would
be drafted in from next week to speed up the collection of money
from absent parents. An additional £28 million is to be spent
over the next three years to try to turn round the CSA and impose
a radical change in culture and working practices.
Changes 'based on sexism'
By Katie Nicholl
Long wait before CSA is overhauled
ANGUS NICOLSON, a chartered accountant and local councillor from
Stornoway, in the Western Isles, has a joint residence order with
Anne, the mother of their two children, aged seven and nine. Anne,
31, has a negligible income and Mr Nicolson, who earns more than
£50,000 a year, pays more than half of the children's living
costs. Under the new system Mr Nicolson, 36, would be considered
an absent parent and would therefore have to pay 20 per cent of
his net income. If he refused, he would go to prison. He said: "I
would be paying all the costs incurred in the children's upkeep.
Not only would I pay for the three days that I have them, I would
also have to pay the CSA for the other days so I would be wholly
responsible for their financial upkeep. Whilst this will not have
such a serious impact on myself, it will be a financial burden for
Mr Nicolson has had a long battle with the CSA, forcing it to recognise
that he is not an absent parent since he shares care. "At the
moment the children's living costs are made up according to each
of our abilities. Even though I pay more than half of the living
costs, the CSA are unable to accept that I am the parent with care.
They are unable to accept that a father can be the parent with care.
"There is an inherent sexism in the anticipated outcome from
this legislation; they should be targeting slack parents, not slack
fathers. It will cause a great deal of antagonism because it attacks
Delays threaten to undermine CSA shake-up
David Brindle, Social Services Correspondent
Many divorced and separated families will not benefit from sweeping
reform of the child support agency, unveiled yesterday, because
the changes are expected to take four years to come into full effect.
Delays being blamed on the need for new computer systems mean that
the reformed child maintenance rules will start to apply to new
cases only from late 2001, even if everything goes to plan, with
transfer of almost 1m cases beginning at an unspecified date. It
is believed ministers do not anticipate completion of the transfer
before 2003. By then, tens of thousands of families will no longer
be on the CSA's books because their youngest child will have left
Opposition MPs last night warned that the government could face
a backlash from people who had heightened expectations of early
change. "A lot of parents, hearing about the proposals, will
have no idea about this long transitional period," said David
Willetts, shadow social security secretary. "Ministers are
moving more slowly than the CSA they criticise for slowness."
A spokesman for the anti-CSA campaign group, the National Association
for Child Support Action, said: "After 10 years of family law
moving towards conciliation, it is a retrograde step to criminalise
aspects of family break-up." However, the association joined
welfare groups in welcoming the £10 maintenance allowance
for lone mothers on income support - a move which the Child Poverty
Action Group said would mean many of the poorest children benefiting
from the CSA for the first time.
New deal for children
CSA shows the poverty of welfare policy
The British Medical Association's report on child health was a
jolt to the complacency of middle England. Birth weights in Britain
are on a par with Albania and worse than Slovenia; the UN now judges
Britain to be one of the most socially unequal countries in the
world. This is the context against which the Child Support Agency
(CSA) has to be judged. The links between child poverty, marital
breakdown and failure of non-resident parents (mostly fathers) to
pay maintenance are all now well established.
The miserable saga of the CSA since 1993 has indirectly contributed
to the terrible record on child health. It has done precisely nothing
to improve the financial lot of single parents and their children;
the department of social security admits that the percentage of
parents (barely 20%) receiving child maintenance today is no higher
than it was when the CSA started work. The agency has been a massive
failure. It did not deliver the much-vaunted promise of savings
to the Treasury with which it was launched; it did not enforce responsibilities
of fathers to their children - 30 per cent of assessed cases do
not pay; it failed single parents and their children to the extent
that 70 per cent are now reluctant to co-operate with the CSA -
everything they gained in maintenance was clawed back from their
benefits, there was simply nothing in it for them.
There are many lessons in this for everyone. All-party support
for the legislation in 1990-91 proved to be disastrous; no one spotted
the problems looming in the fine print. Worst of all, no one managed
to shift the purpose of the CSA from an uneasy combination of cutting
the benefit bill and a moral crusade to make dads pay, to the welfare
of children.... The CSA demonstrates how the emotional charge around
the whole subject of family breakdown and what government should
and can do about it, obscured the practical imperatives of sound
policy-making. So, it is not until the middle of the next decade,
a full 15 years from the start of the discussion, that we will be
able to measure whether a re-vamped CSA has worked - in concert
with other policies such as the New Deal for lone-parents - in improving
children's health. It has to be within the capabilities of a mature
democracy to develop with more speed and fewer mistakes social policy
- especially when it has enormous consequences on the next generation.
FATHERS WHO LIE TO CSA WILL FACE JAIL
A STREAMLINED system of child maintenance designed to force absent
fathers to meet their payments was unveiled yesterday, but will
not take effect for another two and a half years. When it is brought
in towards the end of 2001, the new system will initially apply
only to new cases, and it could take years to apply it to the 905,000
families already on the books of the much-criticised Child Support
To stop a man playing for time by denying he is the father of the
child, the burden of proof will be on him to prove this if he was
married to the mother.
David Willetts, the Tory social security spokesman, accused Mr
Darling of producing only "gimmicks and soundbites". He
said: "We recognise that the CSA needs to be reformed, but
it is stupid to put absent parents in jail or take away their driving
licence. That means they won't be able to earn any money and the
children that we all want to help will suffer."
system simpler but 'more unfair to fathers'
Long wait before CSA is overhauled
study 2 is based on this article. It shows the details graphically.
LET us imagine a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. For the
sake of argument, their names are Tony and Cherie. They have three
children and, after their separation, the parents share the care
of their offspring. Tony earns £100,000 a year but his wife
brings in almost double that. In the divorce settlement, she has
been given the large marital home and Tony lives in a central London
flat, where for six months of the year he looks after the children.
Tony believes he cares equally for his children, both financially
and emotionally, but the state regards him as a Non-Resident Parent.
Under the reforms of the Child Support Agency announced yesterday,
Tony would be required to pay 12.5 per cent of his net income to
Cherie. If she were to remarry a millionaire, Tony would still have
to pay one eighth of his net income to his ex-wife.
This is an extreme example of the potential impact of the reform
package announced by Alistair Darling yesterday but its unfairness
can be just as great lower down the income scale.
The grisly history of the CSA since its inception in 1993 is well-known:
the fuelled resentments, the acrimonious battles, the deliberate
frauds and tricks to avoid paying - and the suicides of those who
felt they could not cope. Yesterday, the Government decided to recast
the whole system: but is the reform likely to produce a system any
fairer than the last? Certainly it should be simpler, but campaigners
maintain it will be even more unjust to fathers. It also introduces
criminality into family breakdown for the first time, proposing
that fathers who refuse to pay will be jailed. Almost all the existing
exemptions are to be removed. At present, 60,000 fathers do not
have to pay anything because they have responsibility for children
in a second family. The problem with the new scheme arises where
parents share the child care. The formula allows for an abatement
for the absent father whose children spend at least 52 nights a
year with him.
However, this means that a Non-Resident Parent who shares the care
equally still pays 50 per cent of the assessment. Karen Randall
of the pressure group Families Need Fathers said: "It is gender
discrimination. "The income of the parent with care - usually
the mother - is not being taken into account. It is placing the
care that mothers give on an unequal footing with that of fathers.
This is patronising to mothers by suggesting they cannot earn their
own income and have a traditional function to look after children,
and it is patronising to fathers by suggesting their only role is
to provide the money." She said that the father who has joint
care would pay twice - once during the time he is looking after
the children at his own home and again when they are with the mother.
The rape reform that makes all men guilty
Rape is the most serious of all crimes after murder. Yet now, it
seems, the offence is not so serious if you're raped by someone
you know. The government has floated the idea of creating a new
offence of "date rape", with lower penalties than for
raping a stranger. What absurdity is this? Rape means forcing someone
to have intercourse without consent. Either this is a crime of exceptional
gravity, or it is not. It can't become less serious if you're raped
after a night out rather than jumped on in an alley. The change
has been suggested simply to increase the number of rape convictions,
which has fallen while reports of date rape have risen. Charges
of rape by strangers, meanwhile, have dropped. Indeed, this seems
to be why there are fewer convictions. Claims of date rape raise
vexing questions about whether the woman was giving her consent.
It's hardly surprising, therefore, that police don't press charges
or that juries are reluctant to convict.
It's quite extraordinary to say that because not enough men are
being convicted, the law must change. It implies a certainty that
these date rapes have all actually happened. On what evidence? Whatever
happened to the presumption of innocence? Or are women always to
be believed, simply because they are women? Clearly the government
thinks so - it says date rape is now "the fastest growing crime
against women". So are we to assume there's been an inexplicable
leap in the numbers of men raping their girlfriends on a date? Or
that hitherto reticent victims have suddenly become "empowered"
to come forward? There's surely a more likely explanation: the increasing
sexual availability of women has torn up the rules of sexual etiquette.
A report last year by the Zero Tolerance Charitable Trust into
young people's sexual attitudes revealed huge confusion about the
ambiguous new codes governing sexual behaviour. Yet even these young
people appeared to be rather clearer than the Home Office about
responsibility. Girls as well as boys thought a man wasn't guilty
of rape if the woman tried to draw the line after "leading
him on". Almost 75% of those surveyed agreed with the statement
"Women cry rape the next day when really they have just had
second thoughts". With sexual behaviour now so free, it would
seem foolish to try to sort out such ambiguous situations in court.
Open season appears to have been declared now on men. It was surely
no coincidence that the day after the government told us men were
violent beasts, it announced ways of being even tougher against
feckless ex-husbands through reform of the Child Support Act. Yet
it failed to address the dreadful injustice of this legislation,
which treats all absent fathers as feckless even though some may
be the blameless victims of destructive behaviour by women.
Of course some men are irresponsible, and should be pursued; of
course men should pay for their children's upkeep if they have broken
up their families. Most divorces, however, are initiated by women.
Many divorced fathers have their homes and children taken away from
them and are all but de-stroyed. They are then clobbered by the
Child Support Agency, which treats them as if they are the guilty
party. In future they may even be sent to prison. The assumptions
behind many of the proposed changes to the act are hostile to men.
They reduce fathers even more than before to walking wallets, and
deepen the injustices against them. Even if a father shares childcare
equally with his ex-wife, he will have to pay the mother for the
child's upkeep. Moreover, the mother's income won't henceforth be
taken into account. So even if she's gone off with a man earning
£100,000 a year, scooping up the family home and the children
en route, her ex-husband will have to pay her - thus supporting
behaviour he may even believe is damaging his children. At the same
time, he may be deprived of all contact with his children by courts
which stack the cards against him. The lord chancellor's advisory
board on family law has said that if wives allege domestic violence
against their former husbands, the courts should stop them seeing
their children. It is not uncommon, though, for women to make entirely
spurious charges of violence against their ex-husbands just to prevent
them from having access to their children. Lawyers say the courts
are overwhelmingly disposed to believe them, even when there isn't
a shred of evidence.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Fairness to non-resident fathers
From Mr John Foley
Sir, The proposed reform of the Child Support Agency (reports and
leading article, July 2) exacerbates the present discrimination
against fathers, who constitute the vast majority of non-resident
parents. The Government perpetuates the myth that fathers are not
interested in looking after their children and, indeed, financially
penalises them if they wish to exercise their responsibilities.
Even when parents share care equally, then the CSA will still insist
that the father should pay the mother, as your report illustrated.
The new formula will only take into account the income of the father
- not the mother. Fathers' costs of maintaining contact with their
children are not taken into account unless in exceptional circumstances.
The White Paper states that the Government does not believe that
contact between children and their non-resident parent is always
in the best interests of children, but casts no corresponding aspersion
on resident parents.
Surely it is dishonest for the Government to portray these reforms
as a campaign against recalcitrant non-payers. DSS statistics show
the main defaulters are the unemployed and the low-waged who cannot
afford to make CSA payments on a regular basis. The reforms are
simply a tax on gender. The Government should go back to the drawing
board and address the fundamental human right of children to see
their father. Treating fathers only as a chequebook is not going
to win the CSA the support it deserves.
Sincerely, JOHN FOLEY (Policy Director, Families Need Fathers)
From Mrs Elizabeth Thomas
Sir, I read your report of measures intended to punish absent fathers
who refuse to support their children financially. I look forward
to reading of the measures proposed to punish mothers who refuse
to allow their children access to their fathers.
Yours, ELIZABETH THOMAS
Government held back by IT systems
Suspension of the Accord projects has a knock-on effect for the
Child Support Agency.
Radical child support reforms are being delayed by at least two
years because of the late delivery of IT systems at the Child Support
Agency. Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling has told MPs
that the simplification of absent parent payments cannot be implemented
'until towards the end of 2001 at the earliest'. Even this target
involves a massive gamble: Darling's statement follows the disclosure
in Computing (24 June) that the DSS's Accord IT project has already
been put on hold. Accord - which will cost hundreds of millions
of pounds - integrates the DSS's main IT systems and includes a
systems upgrade at the CSA. It was originally due to be completed
by April 2001.
The CSA reforms hinge on DSS income and child support databases
being re-vamped on time. Liberal Democrat MP David Rendel asked
if 'the IT will work any better than that surrounding the fiascos
of the passport system and the system in post offices?' Darling
said he will ensure that 'before we start the new system, we know
that the IT systems work'.
This Is Lancashire
star jail threat
WORLD darts star [X] has been ordered to pay what he owes towards
the cost of his children's upbringing - or he could face jail. [X],
who earlier this year reached the final of the World Darts Championship,
was told by Hyndburn Magistrates yesterday to start paying off more
than £8,000 which he owes the Child Support Agency (CSA).
The CSA had previously sent [X] two letters warning him he was
in arrears with his payments and further forms were filled out in
August 1996. The Agency warned Mr Baxter they would impose a maintenance
assessment order if he did not make 'sufficient' payments. In February
this year he was informed of the CSA's intention to make a liability
order through the courts. The order was granted but will not be
enforced until next month while Mr Baxter seeks information on his
A CSA press spokeswoman said: "The order means we will come
to some agreement of payment with the person involved. "If
that is not successful we may apply for the money to be taken straight
out of a bank or building society account. "After that we could
apply for a charging order, where the CSA takes money it is owed
from the proceeds of any property sold by the person. "As a
last resort, we could apply for the court to commit a person to
prison, but only where anything else had failed, and after considering
the effect on any children involved."
Husbands in agony
WE are the men unceremoniously dumped (Comment, last week). We
have lost our children, our homes and our money. We have lived in
bedsits and battled with the Child Support Agency. We have listened
while belligerent lawyers funded by legal aid convinced a court
that we have behaved unreasonably - because that was what the courts
required. We are the men whom nobody wanted to believe - we are
not violent, reckless or irresponsible. We were good, decent, responsible
husbands and fathers whose lives were changed for ever. I have waited
eight years for somebody to so eloquently express our anguish -
I am humbled that it is a woman who has done so.
Bryan McAlley, Gunby, Lincolnshire
CSA in £4m compensation payout
The CSA has made improvements in the last year. Mistakes by the
Child Support Agency (CSA) have led to compensation payments of
more than £4m being awarded to disgruntled parents, according
to a highly critical audit report. Sir John Bourn, head of the National
Audit Office (NAO), said past mistakes in assessments had left "a
legacy of error" while mistakes still occurred in new cases.
He admitted that the system by which maintenance payments are calculated
was extremely complex to administer and carried "a significant
risk of inherent error". But he said there was room for further
significant improvements to be made before the Agency could perform
"at a standard acceptable to both Parliament and clients".
Sir John said improvements had been made since a 1997/98 audit and
accuracy was much better. But he said errors were still being made.
These were far more likely to involve absent parents being asked
to pay too much maintenance than too little. Of payments received,
some £23.8m was overpaid, compared to £6.2m which was
Audit Office finds mistakes were made in four out of five cases
Errors by Child Support Agency 'have cost £30m'
reports Jill Sherman
THE National Audit Office yesterday delivered a damning report
on the Child Support Agency, claiming that it had made errors worth
up to £30 million in maintenance collections. Sir John Bourn,
Comptroller and Auditor General, qualified the CSA accounts after
discovering that errors had been made in four out of five maintenance
assessments. In addition compensation paid out to parents, where
serious mistakes had been made, had increased fourfold in 12 months
from £1.1 million to £4.4 million. Although Sir John
admitted that the agency's caseload had increased by 22 per cent
in the last year, a high level of errors were still being made and
a backlog of miscalculations made in previous years remained unresolved.
He estimated that of the £409.8 million collected from absent
parents in 1998-99, £23.8 million had been overpaid and £6.2
David Davis, chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Select Committee,
yesterday callled for urgent action to "tackle the legacy of
error in child support". He admitted that the CSA reforms would
improve the system but pointed out that these would be delayed for
at least two years, and would do nothing to help the mounting backlog.
"The legacy of error in current assessments could overhand
the new system for a decade or more if not dealt with in the near
future," he said. He also criticised the agency for lowering
its expectation for accuracy in new assessments. "Last year
we criticised them for aiming only for 85 per cent accuracy; they
responded by adopting a different target, but setting it only at
75 per cent. "It is unacceptable that the agency is satisfied
when one in four assessments are wrong. The agency must raise their
sights and aim to get all assessments right."
The Audit Office report shows that there has been a 250 per cent
increase in the number of compensation payments and a 400 per cent
increase in the value of compensation. The payments are made by
the agency where either the absent father or the mother faces serious
financial hardship because of an error, or stress or other physical
or mental problems.
CSA ERRORS COSTING PARENTS MILLIONS
ABSENT PARENTS' payments to the Child Support Agency are wrongly
recorded in four out of five cases, the Government's spending watchdog
said last night.
Sir John Bourn, the head of the National Audit Office (NAO), refused
to pass the agency's accounts for the fifth year running because
of inaccuracies. One-third of absent parents were paying the wrong
amount, he said. Four out of five also had their payments recorded
inaccurately once they had been made. Out of pounds 409.8m received
from absent parents, Sir John said pounds 23.8m was overpaid. Underpayments
amounted to pounds 6.2m.
David Davis, the chairman of the Commons' committee which oversees
NAO reports, called for urgent action to tackle the legacy of error
in the CSA. Although some progress had been made in the last year,
the proportion of absent parents paying the wrong amount had actually
risen, he said. "These errors are not notional accounting issues,
they represent injustice. "For every person who gains from
an error there is a loser. Unless this is addressed as a matter
of urgency the agency will be beset by problems for a generation."
Last year the agency was criticised for aiming at just 85 per cent
accuracy, but this year it set an even lower target of 75 per cent.
PARLIAMENT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: CSA BIN CASES
A BACKLOG of 350,000 case reviews by the Child Support Agency will
be scrapped, junior Social Security Minister Angela Eagle announced.
The outstanding caseload was caused by parents not returning forms
or not providing information.
Lincolnshire Echo Online
Minister warns debt collectors on tail of absent fathers who don't
The Child Support Agency is to bring in private consultants in
a bid to recover £690m of debts owed by absent parents. The
Government has now appointed a City agency to help collect the money
Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling said £28m would
be spent over the next three years on the overhaul. Reforms unveiled
in the White Paper included drafting in management expertise from
the private sector.
CSA adopts private debt collection
Unpaid debts from absent parents currently stand at £690m
The government is bringing in a major accountancy firm to track
down absent parents after admitting that the Child Support Agency
is failing to collect owed maintenance payments. Deloitte Touche
won the contract after figures revealed that absent parents owed
£690m in CSA-ordered payments to their offspring. Less than
half of absent fathers had paid the level required by the CSA, while
a third had paid nothing at all.
Ian Kelly, of the UK Men's Group, which opposes the CSA, told BBC
Radio 5 Live: "I can't really see what a firm of accountants
are doing being involved, probably at great expense.
David Davis, chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee,
said: "These errors are not notional accounting issues, they
represent injustice. "For every person who gains from an error
there is a loser, and where the recipient of child support is on
benefit the loser can often be the taxpayer".
Ministers bring in private consultants to toughen up CSA
By Andrew Sparrow, Political Correspondent
MINISTERS promised yesterday to stop the Child Support Agency being
"a soft touch". Baroness Hollis, a social security minister,
said consultants had been hired to suggest ways of getting more
absent parents to comply with the CSA. Lady Hollis said Deloitte
Consulting would help the CSA to improve its record on compliance,
which is so poor that more than £500 million is owed in maintenance.
But the Tories claimed that the move was a sign of desperation which
highlighted the Government's failure to press on with more fundamental
CSA reform. In the meantime, she said, Deloitte Consulting would
develop strategies with the CSA to improve compliance rates. This
was part of a £28 million programme designed to import private
sector "know-how" into the agency. Asked why it was necessary
to bring in the consultants, Lady Hollis told Radio 4's Today programme:
"Private consultants have experience of debt management that
we just do not have." They would help with risk analysis and
pro-active strategies, she said.
Eric Pickles, the Conservative social security spokesman, said:
"There would be no need to employ expensive private consultants
to collect debt if Labour would just stop dithering and start introducing
sensible, workable changes to the CSA."
CSA calls in consultants to chase unpaid £500m
Absent parents who owe millions of pounds in maintenance payments
will be the targets of a Child Support Agency crackdown, the Government
announced yesterday. The private consultancy Deloitte Touche has
been appointed to advise on chasing parents who owe £511m
to the agency. The appointment of debt collection consultants has
come after the Government unveiled a series of reforms of the agency.
Ian Kelly, of the UK Men's Group, which opposes the agency, attacked
the appointment of consultants. "I can't really see what a
firm of accountants are doing being involved, probably at great
expense," he said. "Perhaps a firm of debt collectors
would be more appropriate if that is what the Government are trying
to do here. There are 50 families in this country who have lost
a person by suicide because of the intense pressure that person
was placed under by the Child Support Agency when they had, in fact,
been supporting their child. "The matter of child maintenance
should be returned to the courts, where it was properly dealt with
in the past."
Consultants to crack down on child support dodgers
Michael White, Political Editor
The government yesterday delighted single mothers and angered ex-husbands
by calling in management consultants to help the child support agency
claim £500m worth of unpaid maintainance. The move to bring
in Deloitte Consulting, a subsiduary of the City accountancy conglomerate,
was promoted as a crackdown on dodgers by the social security minister,
Baroness Hollis. But it brought renewed warnings of intolerable
pressures - which have led to 50 suicides. Even some supporters
of the move warned about the need to hold the consultants properly
Crucially, some of the extra money retrieved from absent parents
will benefit families as well as the treasury, which had previously
docked all savings from benefits. Mothers will be able to keep up
to £10 a week on top of benefits.
The firm will look at "compliance management information,
process validation and change leadership" - a euphemism for
admitting the CSA spends up to 90% of its time in over-complex assessments,
makes mistakes which result in successful appeals, and targets the
conscientious, not hard cases.
Independent On Sunday
Dads wage guerrilla war on CSA
By Rachel Sylvester, political editor
A GROUP of disgruntled fathers has launched a campaign to undermine
the Child Support Agency by circulating information on dodges and
devices to avoid maintenance payments. These include unscrupulous
suggestions on how to persuade ex-wives to lie to the authorities
- and how to fool the authorities into thinking that they are violent.
The National Association for Child Support Action (NACSA) produces
regular newsletters and a website advising fathers how to delay,
reduce or avoid contributions to the CSA.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham, the minister responsible for the CSA,
said the Government was concerned about a small group of hardliners
working "at the edge" of the law. "Most men are decent
and want to support their children but there are a core of people
who do not want to pay and are seeking to duck and avoid and we
will get tough on those," she said.
Maeve Sherlock, director of the National Council for One Parent
Families, said she was "appalled" by some of NACSA's activities.
"There will always be some cases of genuine hardship but anyone
trying to persuade non-resident parents to avoid paying child support
when they can afford to pay it is deeply irresponsible," she
Loophole in college fees to be examined
BY OUR EDUCATION EDITOR
MINISTERS are considering making wealthy parents who leave home
pay more towards the education of their children at university or
college. There is no government guidance for local authorities on
divorced or separated parents. Councils assess students' eligibility
for loans and fees against the income of the parent with whom they
live, assuming that they bear financial responsibility for their
children. But civil servants are conducting a review of the regulations
to see if a loophole is being exploited.
The National Union of Students has demanded assurances that the
review was not a Treasury-driven attempt to cut the cost of student
support, by maximising parental contributions. An NUS spokesman
was concerned that the principle used by the Child Support Agency
- that parents should still support children after the end of their
marriage - was being applied to student finance.
Army helps soldiers to escape child support
by Andy McSmith and Richard Reeves
Men once joined the armed forces to see the world or escape the
dole queue. Now there is a new reason to enlist: to avoid paying
child maintenance bills. Under military rules, commanding officers
are allowed to override orders from the Child Support Agency to
deduct money from a pay packet if they believe it will be detrimental
to 'morale and battle fitness'.
In one current case, Claire Goulding, who spent 11 years as an
army wife, is unable to recoup almost £6,000 of child maintenance
back payments despite building her life around the army. Her older
daughter was born in Hong Kong; in Germany, she acted as the commanding
officer's housekeeper. She waited at home while her husband served
in the Gulf and Bosnia. But later came a painful separation, a custody
battle, a year spent bringing up two girls with no money from their
father and the inevitable call upon the much-criticised CSA. In
February 1998, the CSA made an order that £122.33 a week was
to be deducted at source from Claire's ex-husband, Sergeant Douglas
Neal, of the Coldstream Guards - partly to penalise him for his
past failure to pay maintenance or answer the CSA's letters. But
Neal had remarried and started a second family, and no soldier with
dependants has more than a quarter of his net pay deducted at source.
For nearly two years, the army has refused to hand over the full
amount demanded by the CSA - and, unless army regulations are changed,
they never will. Instead, they have paid £318 a month, less
than £80 a week, for 17 months. Claire has never received
any money to compensate for the months when Neal paid no maintenance
at all. When the bailiffs arrived at the barracks, sent by the CSA
to seize Neal's belongings, they were called in to speak to him
and his commanding officer, and went away empty-handed. Because
many couples live in Ministry of Defence houses it is often the
wife and child who have to leave, sometimes being forced to declare
themselves homeless as a result.
Independent On Sunday
No gender divide
M Griffiths, Baughurst, Hampshire
The idea that Nacsa (the National Association for Child Support
Action) is a men's organisation is wrong ("Dads wage guerrilla
war on CSA", 8 August). Many women are campaigning against
the agency because of the trouble it causes families. In his 1998-99
report on the CSA, the Auditor General voices serious concerns about
the operation of the agency and its errors - "almost one in
four assessments are wrong", "£23m paid by absent
parents are overpayments" - and he sees nothing in the new
White Paper reforms that might address these problems.
Baroness Hollis is looking for scapegoats. She is seeking to get
public opinion on her side in order to bring in even more draconian
legislation because the CSA is not working. As a grandmother of
60-plus years, I am pleased that I have been able to help and support
those who have been targeted by this disreputable agency, and will
continue to do so until families have a fair system of maintenance.
Derbyshire Evening Telegraph
Mum tells of sons worries over CSA.
The mother of a man who was found dead in a fume-filled car has
told how her son was finding it a struggle to cope with maintenance
payments demanded by the Child Support Agency. Mrs [Y] (59) said:
"He was paying maintenance for his six-year-old child. He wasnt
arguing about paying, but it was such a big amount out of his wages."
Mr [X] worked for Elkes Biscuits in Uttoxeter and had taken on a
weekend job to make ends meet.He died on August 14. A note by him
said: "Dont blame anybody. Dont be sad, Im
A CSA spokeswoman said: "We do feel sad when people take their
lives, but we cannot comment on any individual cases."
Official complaints increase by 50%, reports Alexandra Frean
CSA to pay £100,000 for errors
THE Child Support Agency has been ordered to pay more than £100,000
in compensation to clients whose complaints have been mishandled
by its staff, a government watchdog will announce today. In her
second annual report, Anne Parker, the Independent Case Examiner,
is expected to criticise the agency for being too slow to learn
from its mistakes and for making only grudging apologies to clients,
even when it knows that it is in the wrong.
"The agency isn't very good at saying sorry," a senior
government source said. The agency has grown accustomed to criticism
in the six years since it was formed, but today's report is significant
because it follows claims that the CSA has already improved its
responsiveness and its accuracy after its acknowledged early failures.
CSA 'raising false hopes' of back payments
David Brindle, Social Services Correspondent
Errors by the child support agency are cruelly raising false hopes
among lone parents of windfalls of thousands of pounds in child
maintenance back payments, the agency's watchdog will today report.
In one case outlined in the report, a man with care of his children
was told repeatedly he was due more than £7,500 in maintenance
arrears. Much later, following intervention by the examiner's office,
the figure was amended to a correct £3,000.
In a second case, a woman took out a bank loan on the strength
of an agency assurance that she was due £4,600. Later, she
was told she was due nothing. Because the woman suffered financial
loss, she was compensated.
CSA 'making progress over complaints'
The Child Support Agency has tried to improve its image
An increasing number of people are taking their complaints against
the Child Support Agency (CSA) to independent review. But the number
of people dissatisfied with the agency's response to complaints
has fallen drastically, according to the second annual report of
the Independent Case Examiner, Anne Parker. Her report found that
only 10% of people were dissatisfied, compared with 90% the year
before. Mrs Parker also said the agency's increased willingness
to talk to complainants face to face or over the phone had improved
the service offered.
But new areas of complaint included inconsistency in handling cases,
poor aftercare and problems over deciding paternity.
CSA incurs mothers' rage
BY ALEXANDRA FREAN, SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
THE Child Support Agency is incurring the wrath of a growing number
of single mothers. Women accounted for 40 per cent of complaints
last year to the Independent Case Examiner, the agency's watchdog
- a 32 per cent increase on the previous year.
Speaking at the publication of her second annual report, Ms Parker
said that most of the women who complained were mothers who have
been granted care of their children, while most of the men were
absent or non-resident fathers. "One reason why I was concerned
to see a more representative sample of women complaining to me was
that a lot of them have such substantial domestic duties that finding
the energy to complain is hard," she said.
Teen fathers on the rise
Teenage fathers will have their benefit docked from the age of
Teenage fathers will have their benefit docked from the age of
16. The Child Support Agency has about 2,000 teenage fathers on
its books - but the boys are not required to pay maintenance until
they turn 16.
South Yorkshire police are investigating a 14-year-old Sheffield
boy whose 12-year-old girlfriend is three months' pregnant. The
boy could be charged with rape because a girl of this age cannot
legally consent to sex. If she gives birth and keeps the baby, the
boy will not be required to pay maintenance until his 16th birthday.
There are 2,000 teenage boys on Child Support Agency's books. A
Child Support Agency spokesman told the BBC: "At that stage,
they sort of grow into the responsibility and we actively and vigorously
pursue them for maintenance. "If they're unemployed, the agency
seeks to reduce any benefit they are getting by £5.20 a week."
It's acceptable to skive, new fathers are told
BY ALEXANDRA FREAN SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
FATHERS are advised in a new guide endorsed by the Government to
"cut as many corners as possible" at work without being
dismissed so that they can concentrate more on caring for their
newborn babies. The guide, which is to be distributed to most men
whose partners are expecting babies, tells new fathers not to worry
if they feel they are "doing neither the fathering nor the
job properly" in the first months after their child's birth.
Some of the tips included in the guide:
If you are unmarried, apply to the Central Registry for Parental
Responsibility. Otherwise your child could be adopted, have
its name changed or even be taken abroad without your agreement
If you split up, don't give up on your child. Contact the CSA
and formalise support payments to avoid money conflicts
The guide is available at www.bounty.com. Here is a
Experts weigh up CSA reforms
The CSA has been at the centre of controversy since it was set
up Social policy experts are to give evidence to a parliamentary
committee on proposals to transform the controversial Child Support
Agency. The Social Security Select Committee will begin hearing
views on the White Paper on the CSA on Tuesday. It expects to publish
a report on its findings in October.
CSA chief executive Faith Boardman, civil servants, the Child Poverty
Action Group, the Families Need Fathers group, trades unions and
the National Association for Child Support Action are among the
experts who will attend the three-day session. Familes Need Fathers
is worried that there is too much concentration on punishing absent
Children 'could sue parents for share of income'
BY ALEXANDRA FREAN, SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
CHILDREN could have the right to sue their parents for 15 per cent
of the family income once they turn 18 if the Government's proposals
to reform the Child Support Agency go through unamended.
The Family Law Bar Association said yesterday that the Government
could inadvertently be creating a new right for all children to
share in their parents' wealth that went far beyond anything ministers
had originally intended. Nicholas Mostyn, QC, from the association,
told MPs that there was a serious flaw in proposals to replace the
current complex child-support formula with a simple flat rate, requiring
all absent parents to pay 15 per cent of their income in maintenance
for an only child, 20 per cent for two and 25 per cent for three
or more children. Giving evidence to the Commons Social Security
Select Committee, Mr Mostyn said that it was "utter folly"
to impose no maximum on the amounts that could be paid. "The
Government's justification for having no maximum can be summarised
in the single sentence: children have a right to share in the income
of their parents." But he said: "Children have no such
right. They may have an expectation, and the empirical reality is
that in most cases they do, but they have no such right. Their only
right is to be maintained. "Will this right entitle a child
who has lived in an intact family to seek, on attainment of majority,
an account of the sums expended for his benefit, and payment to
him of any surplus?"
CSA rule change 'will favour absent fathers'
BY ALEXANDRA FREAN, SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
PROTEST groups claim that fathers who see their children after
divorce will suffer harsher financial penalties than those who simply
walk away if government proposals to reform the Child Support Agency
proceed unaltered. Divorce lawyers and groups representing divorced
and separated parents told MPs that the proposed reforms were deeply
flawed because they failed to take account of the income of the
parent with custody of the child or children.
Opponents of the reforms say that if the absent parent, often the
father, were never to see his children again but had been tracked
down by the CSA, he would simply have to pay maintenance to his
former wife for the children. If, however, he had his children to
live with him for part of the week, he would pay more: on top of
maintanance payments he would have to bear the cost of caring for
the children while they were at his house.
Karen Randall, of Families Need Fathers, which represents divorced
and separated parents, believes that the new system will work in
the 75 per cent of cases in which children are cared for by one
parent, usually the mother, but not in the remaining cases. "These
proposals, in their current form, will discourage shared parenting
and result in greater loss of contact between children and their
non-resident parents, usually their fathers," Ms Randall said.
The solution, she believes, would be to make the mother pay maintenance
of 15 per cent of her income for the days that children are with
Poor lone parents
There is an unfairness in access to higher education. If you have
a child, you cannot afford to go to university
Yesterday education minister Tessa Blackstone gave a rousing address
to the annual conference of university vice-chancellors. Her main
theme was, quite rightly, the need to encourage more people of every
social background into higher education, especially mature students
who missed the chance earlier in life. "Widening participation
remains a cornerstone of government policies," she said, announcing
more access money for certain hardship cases. But one enormous group
of people who desperately need another chance has been left out
until now - the 1m single parents who live on social security. They
ought to be the very first target group, the easiest to reach, some
destined for university before pregnancy intervened, others seeking
a new life after failed marriages. The New Deal for Lone Parents
is designed to encourage them to take jobs, calling them in for
compulsory interviews to tell them about the new earnings top-up
they can get in low paid work, plus money for childcare.
Some extraordinary women do manage it. One single mother with four
children has been corresponding with me for some time while she
has struggled desperately to get herself through teacher training.
Amazingly, accumulating much debt and hardship, she has finally
this week started her first teaching job, a triumph over needless
adversity and bureaucratic barricades. Luckily she has an ex-husband
who pays reasonable maintenance through the Child Support Agency.
But that is exceptional since so far the CSA has failed to deliver
for most single mothers. In her latest letter she writes: "I
could have given up many times but I didn't and I have to say that
I did it myself in spite of government policies and income support
Cathy is a single mother of two on income support . She also has
a university degree and a profession
So why did she have only 30p to last the weekend?
Interview by Ann Treneman
Cathy looks young and happy as she walks up one of Liverpool's
wide and shabby streets with her children running round her legs.
"Hello," she says when she spots me on the front step....
We go into her flat. "It's complete chaos," she says and
she is right. I sit on a sofa draped in a cloth while Cathy sits
on a chair draped in cloth. She gets a file out marked "DSS
crap". The children want a snack. "Look kids there is
no food," she says. Her voice is soft and light. She adds an
operational note for my benefit: "It is Friday and I have a
half a loaf of bread in the house. That is it." She is going
to borrow a tenner tonight, though, and that will get them through
until Monday. So how much money does she have? She counts pennies
on her mantelpiece crowded with art postcards, photographs and papers.
"There is 20p there," she says. "And I've got 10p
in my bag." That is terrible, I say. "It's normal. But
there is a woman next door. She's wonderful. We have a rubber £10
note that we keep giving each other."
We add up her expenses. Eleven pounds a week goes into the electricity
meter. It doesn't take coins but special cards that can require
a journey of two bus trips to buy. She also pays £12 to £15
a week for gas. She is not in debt to either the electricity or
gas companies and is obviously pleased to be in the clear. She pays
£40 a week for food, which she seems slightly embarrassed
about and calls "extravagant". Food is important in this
house. Cathy wants to please her children but despairs of their
tastes. "Burgers and smiley potatoes with faces. Novelty foods."
She has given up disguising the vegetables. "But I do spend
money on fruit," she says defensively. Plus there is cheese,
bread, eggs, lots of milk. Meat? "Not often. We buy some cold
meats. A roast would just be extortionate." So what did she
eat yesterday? "I always make sure the children have something,"
she says. Yes, but what about herself? "Well," she says,
"I had four pieces of bread and an apple. Oh, and Marmite too.
But I don't eat much anyway." Her rent is £48 but it
is paid by the council as long as she is on income support. She
pays £8.50 to pay off a credit company. Then there are catalogue
debts. I find I'm sitting on one of these. The sofa is draped not
because it is scruffy but because it is nice. "It's cream.
I just wanted one thing that was pristine but it was a mad thing
to do. That's why the covers are on it." The catalogue gets
£15 a week. That is £89.50 a week. We do not explore
what happens to the remaining £2.50. It is possible to live
on income support, she says, if you are frugal and have no vices.
Cathy does not smoke and goes to the pub about once a fortnight
and not for very long then. She has run out of money this week because
she has just started working again (though will not be paid for
a further three weeks) and has had to pay bus fares. No car then?
She looks at me strangely. I can tell she thinks I do not understand.
"I could never afford that. I'd like a bike but cannot get
And what of the fathers? "The only time I have ever really
lied to the DSS was about this," she says. One of the fathers
helps a lot, especially with childcare. This is what makes it possible
for Cathy to work. But if she told the Child Support Agency, his
benefit would be docked. Then their arrangement would collapse.
At the moment it works perfectly, if illegally. The other father
has a full-time job but cannot cope with the situation. "Ironic
isn't it?" she says. The photographer arrives and Cathy becomes
a silhouette in a window. Anonymity is a must. "I am not a
criminal but I feel like one," she says as she stands, clearly
uncomfortable. She sees herself as honest but practical. The DSS
This Is Lancashire
meet CSA bosses
ANGRY parents will get the chance to confront CSA officials in
a special surgery being held by Morecambe MP Geraldine Smith.
Geraldine said: "The Government has ordered a thorough overhaul
of the Child Support Agency, because of very widespread and justified
public dissatisfaction with its performance.
"One of a number of much needed changes in the Agency's approach,
is a new willingness to talk directly to ordinary people affected
by its rulings, at meetings such as the Morecambe surgery I've arranged."
The surgery will be held at Miss Smith's office at 26-28 Victoria
Street on October 4 from 2 pm, and anyone wishing to attend should
contact the office on 01524 411367 or 01524 411368, or visit the
office which is open Monday to Friday,10 am to 4 pm.
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