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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)

1999-10-02
The Independent

D.I.V.O.R.C.E? I.N.S.U.R.E!

Splitting up is as hard on your pockets as it is on your heart. But a new insurance scheme might help.

By Jan Collie

A scheme to protect women from falling into a poverty trap during or after divorce action has been set up by a new city firm. The plan, the first to target non-payment of maintenance, provides finance for the legal fees involved in fighting family and matrimonial cases. A pioneer in its field, Divorce Maintenance Insurance (DMI) has been set up to act as a safety net for the growing number of women who depend on ex-partners to provide for themselves and their children. Instead of turning to the state, they will have access to funds or legal assistance should maintenance payments stop.

"The evidence shows that women and children are more at risk of poverty after divorce than men and, on average, suffer quite substantial declines in household income," says Howard Timmis of Edward Howard Insurance Services, who originated DMI along with Lloyds underwriters, the Kiln group. "The situation worsens dramatically if the former husband suddenly can't, or simply won't, pay the maintenance." Women whose ex-husbands suffer sickness, redundancy or disability are forced onto state benefit unless or until they are able to support themselves, Mr Timmis explains, as are those whose ex-partners die. Women whose financial lifeline is deliberately cut off are in the same pre- dicament, as well as having to rely on legal aid to get their maintenance orders enforced. "The economic consequences of divorce are little less than disastrous for a large percentage of women," says Mr Timmis. "The majority of wives are still at least partially dependant on their husbands so they are bound to come off worst. And one of the biggest problems is that when people split up, they initially tend to have a loose verbal agreement about financial support. This is all very well at the outset, but things can and do suddenly change: perhaps because a new partner has arrived on the scene, or access to the children is being made difficult. And then, of course, money becomes a very effective weapon."

"The Lord Chancellor's Department is understandably interested in DMI, as it should serve to reduce the tremendous burden on the legal aid fund," says James Stewart, of Stephenson Harwood, London, who helped draft the insurance policy. "The Access to Justice Bill will have tremendous implications for Legal Aid. In a system where the Legal Aid budget will be capped and the grant of Legal Aid discretionary, a wife with the benefit of DMI is secure in the knowledge that the costs of enforcing a maintenance order against a husband who is wilfully refusing to pay will be met by the insurers.

1999-10-17
The Independent

How can I survive on just £19 a week, Mr Brown?

By Emma Cook

BRYAN WALLIS has walked some 700 miles across Britain and now he's hoping for answers. Nine weeks ago he set off from Iona Abbey in Scotland with little but his rucksack, his placard and a generous supply of corn plasters. Now he's reached London and tomorrow Gordon Brown has agreed to meet him and fellow walkers at Downing Street. "I'm going to ask him why do I and hundreds of other people like me feel like I've been forgotten, overlooked, ignored by the Government? Why am I forced to survive on less than £19 a week? Why do more than 14 million of us rely on benefits?" Divorced with three children, Bryan takes home £49 in benefits. £20 goes on weekly gas and electricity bills and the CSA picks up a further £7.50. He lives off a tuna sandwich a day during the week and spends the rest on groceries when his three children visit at weekends. "The last time I bought anything new for myself was five years ago." If Bryan moved away to look for work he would lose access to his children so now he's planning to go back to college and study agriculture so he can run a community garden.

The Secretary of State for Social Security, Alistair Darling, has pledged that the minimum wage of £3.60 an hour would combine with the new working families' tax credit to lift thousands of people out of poverty. But not, unfortunately, single unemployed men like Bryan. "What good is the family tax credit to me – it doesn't apply to men who are separated from their families, losing their benefits to the CSA – something that Labour condemned but still they carry it on."

1999-10-17
The Sunday Times

Family values: Graeme Martin's former wife continues to pay maintenance for their sons Jimmy and Charlie

CSA chases 52,000 missing mothers

Zoe Brennan

THE number of mothers who abandon their children and have to be chased to help pay for their upkeep has almost trebled over the past three years.
New figures from the Child Support Agency (CSA) show that since 1996, the number of absent mothers being targeted by the agency has risen from 18,500 to 52,000. Many women are failing to make any payments to support their children. Thousands more have disappeared and are proving harder to track than absentee fathers. "When women flee the nest they can be more difficult to trace because many are not employed," said a spokesman for the CSA. "They might have left with another man and are able to go to ground easily. The numbers are rising rapidly."

Many men left caring for their children without maintenance payments are living off benefit because they are unable to earn enough to pay for childcare. Steve Johnson has looked after his son Dominic for 18 years. His wife suffered from severe post-natal depression and left when Dominic was six weeks old. Johnson, who lives in Plymouth, Devon, has received no maintenance despite appealing to the CSA. Families claiming benefit are legally obliged to go to the CSA to have their maintenance payments assessed, although an increasing number of people are going to the agency voluntarily. The 52,000 absent mothers being dealt with by the CSA are only the tip of the iceberg, according to statisticians.

Gingerbread, the support group for single parents, is undertaking a research project on the needs of lone fathers and the reasons behind the rise in their number - now a fifth of members. Many report that they are treated less sympathetically than single mothers.

1999-10-29
Electronic Telegraph

Mistakes found in half of CSA cases

By Jon Hibbs, Political Correspondent

MISTAKES are being made in more than half of maintenance assessments handled by the Child Support Agency following a 22 per cent increase in cases over the past year. The annual report of the independent Chief Child Support Officer yesterday praised modest improvements in the troubled agency's record of decision-making but found that as many as four in 10 awards were potentially incorrect in cash terms.

However, the new procedures are not expected to come on stream until 2001. Faith Boardman, CSA chief executive, said changing the law should reduce errors but the agency was already streamlining its procedures to speed up processing. She said: "I am aware that a lot of hard work still needs to be done to raise standards in all areas to an acceptable level."

1999-11-07
Sunday Mirror

RUNAWAY FATHERS MUST TAKE DNA TEST OR PAY

Runaway fathers who refuse to take a DNA test will have to pay up for their children straight away. New legislation to be outlined in the Queen's Speech will speed up payments to mothers in cases of disputed paternity. In future, one refusal to take a test will be treated as an admission of responsibility, and a legal order will be made against the father to ensure payments start immediately. The tests - which positively identify parenthood in 86 per cent of cases - are expected to apply to up to 5,000 men a year.

Ministers want tighter rules in order to cut the £1.8 billion annual cost of welfare payments to lone mothers.

So now, in Britain, a woman can point to any man and claim child support from him. Even if he's not the father, she has a 14% (about 1 in 7) chance of success. At least the article doesn't hide the fact that the Child Support Agency was set up to support mothers, not children.

1999-11-18
Electronic Telegraph

Tougher CSA rules on absent fathers

By Marie Woolf, Political Correspondent

ABSENT fathers who refuse a DNA test or deny their paternity will face stiff penalties in a shake-up of the heavily-criticised Child Support Agency.
A Welfare Reform Bill, announced yesterday, will impose fines on absent parents who try to delay the Child Support Agency assessing their case. New powers will ensure that absent fathers cannot delay the CSA by disputing paternity or refusing to accept the positive outcome of a DNA test.

The Bill will also introduce a simpler system for determining maintenance payments for children, based on the absent parent's net income.

1999-11-19
The Times

Unmarried fathers to get new rights

BY FRANCES GIBB, LEGAL EDITOR

UNMARRIED fathers will have automatic joint parental rights with mothers under reforms planned by the Government. It plans to amend the Children Act 1989 so that unmarried fathers who register a child's birth jointly with the mother will immediately acquire parental responsibility. There is growing concern among some men that the law discriminates against them as parents, either on the break-up of a marriage or if they are unmarried fathers.

The Government is also reforming the way in which the Child Support Agency works to encourage non-resident fathers to share the care of their children.

1999-11-30
The Times

Social Security Questions: new rules for reformed CSA

Absent fathers will be forced to pay

BY MELISSA KITE

FATHERS who refuse to pay child maintenance could have the money taken from their wages under new rules, ministers confirmed yesterday. Alistair Darling, the Social Security Secretary, told MPs that in future the reformed Child Support Agency would use "every possible means to make sure fathers who won't pay do pay". He said: "There are several sanctions which can be brought against a parent who can pay but will not pay. For example, the CSA can immediately attach that parents wages."

He assured MPs that for those parents who paid willingly, the new system, included in a welfare Bill due before Parliament, would be easier to use. It would not be brought in until ministers were satisfied that the CSA could cope with the change, he said, adding: "Whilst we will do our best to ensure that it is improved week by week, month by month, some of the problems that all of us are very familiar with will continue for some time until we can bring in the new system."

1999-11-30
The Independent

CSA will be able to dock absent fathers' wages

By Sarah Schaefer, Political Reporter

Absent fathers who miss a maintenance payment for their children will have their wages docked under radical legislation to be published this week, Alistair Darling confirmed yesterday. The Social Security Secretary said that the Child Support Agency (CSA) would be given the power to contact employers or Inland Revenue in order to deduct outstanding paymentsfrom absent fathers' incomes. "There are several sanctions we can impose if a parent can pay but won't pay. For example, the CSA can attach that person's wages so it can put that money into payment," Mr Darling told MPs during question time.

Mr Darling, however, admitted that current delays and problems would continue "for some time". He said ministers wanted to be satisfied that the CSA's computer system and staff could cope with the change. "Until the new system is brought in and becomes operational we have to operate under the existing system. "Whilst we will do our best to ensure that it's improved week by week, month by month, some of the problems that all of us are very familiar with will continue for some time until we can bring in the new system," he said.

1999-11-30
Electronic Telegraph

DNA defaulters face benefits cut

By Rachel Sylvester

MOTHERS will lose benefits if they refuse to take a DNA test demanded by the Child Support Agency, under Government proposals to be announced tomorrow. Alistair Darling, the Social Security Secretary, will unveil plans to cut welfare payments for carers who do not agree to a blood test in order to help identify the father of their child through genetic fingerprinting. The Government has announced plans to insist on DNA tests for absent fathers but it now intends to extend this requirement to mothers too in order to have absolute proof of the child's parents. Paternity is only 70 per cent certain if only one parent gives a blood sample.

The proposal, which will be included in the Government's legislation reforming the CSA, will further anger Labour's welfare rebels, who are certain to argue that poor children will suffer if their mother's income support and other payments are cut. However Mr Darling said: "If a mother says somebody is a father we can compel the father to give blood but we can only be 70 per cent right unless we get the mother's blood too. If we are going to have tough penalties on the father then we want to be sure he is the father."

Absent parents who give false information to the agency will face fines of up to £1,000 and payments could be deducted directly from the bank accounts of fathers who refuse to co-operate. The CSA will also be given new access to the tax files of absent parents in order to check that they are declaring all their income. And fathers who are late in paying their contributions could be fined up to 25 per cent of the amount they owe.

1999-11-30
BBC

Single mothers could face DNA tests

The government is considering cutting the benefits of mothers who refuse to take a DNA test demanded by the CSA. The Daily Telegraph reports that among the proposals there will be a move to reduce the benefits of mothers who will not submit DNA samples to the CSA. The government has already announced plans for DNA tests on absent fathers but it is now believed this could be extended to mothers as well. The DNA tests will be used to establish paternity, which is only 70% certain if only one parent gives a blood sample.

1999-12-08
(Birmingham) Evening Mail

"Would you believe it?"

Norfolk mum Lesley Wood, who has spent seven years battling to get child maintenance from her estranged husband, has received her first payment - 2p. Now she's considering legal action against the Child Support Agency.

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Page last updated: 17 December, 2003 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003