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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)

2001-07-03
BBC

Child support complaints up by a third

The number of complaints accepted for investigation against the Child Support Agency (CSA) rose by nearly a third last year. The Independent Case Examiner (ICE), Anne Parker, received 1,488 complaints, 765 of which were accepted for investigation - an increase of 31%. In her annual report, Mrs Parker also predicted a further massive leap in grievances from April when the CSA starts to calculate maintenance payments on net pay rather than a complex formula of up to 108 pieces of information.

The government has indicated the new system will be phased in during a five-year period.... But the examiner warned that people being dealt with under the old system might want to be transferred to its replacement, while others would battle to remain under the old regime for as long as possible because it favoured their cases. "The agency is facing real challenges next year," added Mrs Parker, who leaves her post at the end of this month to head the National Care Standards Commission.... The ICE has received funding for an extra 18 case examiners to increase its staff to 55.

2000-7-03
The Times

CSA complaints

Complaints to the Child Support Agency increased by 31 per cent to 765 in the last year, Anne Parker, the CSA’s Independent Examiner, said in her annual report. Mrs Parker said that this was because old files had been reopened for transfer to a new computer system.

2001-07-03
Ananova

CSA complaints up by a third

The number of complaints against the Child Support Agency rose by nearly a third last year. Independent Case Examiner (ICE) Anne Parker says there will be a further leap next year when reforms of the system come into play. Her annual report puts the increase largely down to the fact that the CSA now tells its 1.2 million clients about the ICE's existence.

"I did foreshadow in my last report that things were going to get worse rather than better once the reforms come in." Mrs Parker added: "The agency has already improved its compensation scheme and many aspects of the way it handles complaints."

2001-07-22
Milton Keynes on Sunday

Parents bitter at cash-snatch CSA

A BLETCHLEY father has claimed that parents left financially crippled by the Child Support Agency can end up resenting their own children. Father-of-three X, of Chepstow Place, earns £1,000 a month as a team leader for SMC Pneumatic in the city. But despite having to surrender the matrimonial home to his ex-wife, he is left with just £300 to live on after the agency has taken its share.

"Not only was I driven out of my home, I was also forced to pay joint matrimonial debts. For the sake of my children, I signed the house over to my ex-wife. "Less than a year down the line, she sold the house, making a substantial profit, but because the court order dealing with the house was made before April 1993, the CSA refused to allow this to make any difference to the amount I was having to pay her.

Mr X now hopes his case will be taken up by his local MP, Dr Phyllis Starkey. She said: "Mr Forrest's claim is quite a complex one and one must be wary in dealing with such matters when there is a great deal of bitterness on both sides. "However, I would like to point out that the CSA was the brainchild of the previous Conservative administration and New Labour has now passed legislation that is much fairer to single fathers. "Unfortunately for the likes of Mr Forrest, we cannot make this law retrospective."

2001-07-27
Ananova

£1bn child maintenance uncollected by agency

The Child Support Agency is owed more than £1 billion in child maintenance. A Parliamentary written answer revealed uncollected child maintenance now stands at more than £500 million, with about £200 million "possibly" uncollectable. The new figures exclude a further £500 million which has already been written off by the agency as "probably" uncollectable.

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman Professor Steve Webb, who obtained the Commons answers, argued that children were being let down by the Government. He said: "The continued failure of the CSA means that hundreds of thousands of children are not getting the financial support that is theirs by right. It is time for the Government to admit that the CSA has been a fiasco from the start and to scrap it."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions said the Government had already legislated "radical reform" of the child support system. She said the current system will be simplified, leaving CSA staff spending less time assessing payments and more time chasing them up.

2001-07-27
BBC

Child Support Agency owed £1bn

The Child Support Agency is owed more than £1bn in child maintenance, it has emerged. Uncollected child maintenance by the government agency now stands at more than £500m. And a further £500m has already been written off by the agency as "probably" uncollectable.

Professor Webb said children were being let down by the government, and urged it to scrap the CSA. He said: "The continued failure of the CSA means that hundreds of thousands of children are not getting the financial support that is theirs by right.... "It is time for the government to admit that the CSA has been a fiasco from the start and to scrap it."

Ministers believe a new simplified "flat rate" calculation for maintenance, to be introduced for new cases next year, will solve the problem.

2001-07-27
The Guardian

CSA owed £1bn in child maintenance

Anne Perkins, political correspondent

The child support agency is owed more than £1bn in maintenance and has written off two-thirds of it as uncollectable. Figures released in Commons answers to Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman, show the agency is getting worse at collecting money owed even though last month's annual report suggested its service was improving. But uncollected child maintenance now stands at more than £500m, while £200m is considered to be possibly uncollectable, and a further £500m has been written off.

The figures have prompted calls for the government to scrap the CSA. Mr Webb said: "The continued failure of the CSA means that hundreds of thousands of children are not getting the financial support that is theirs by right. "It is mind boggling that uncollected maintenance can exceed £500m and that people are having to wait a year for an initial assessment."

2001-08-01
Bristol Evening Post

'I'll go on dole to escape CSA', says dad

By Chris Thorne

A divorced dad from Whitchurch says he is being bled dry by the Child Support Agency – and the only way out is to quit his job and join the dole queue. Desmond Wright split from his wife 12 years ago and handed over their £55,000 house to ensure she would be "financially secure". Now the Child Support Agency are chasing him for payments of £350 a month. But Mr Wright says he cannot afford to pay this much, and the CSA is crippling his chances of starting a new life.

He has a four-year-old son with his new partner and they have a mortgage on their home. Now he is considering quitting his £1,150-a-month job as a telephone engineer and joining the dole queue. He said: "If I'm not earning they can't squeeze the £350 out of me. I don't want to quit my job, I don't want to scrounge off the state – but what option have I got?

A Government spokeswoman said she was unable to talk about individual cases but added: "In general terms, it doesn't work on the basis that if you have handed over a property you don't pay anything. "The payments are for child maintenance, which has to be paid until the child leaves full-time education. "Normally, part of this payment would be to help cover the mortgage so the child has a roof over their head. However, if the property has been handed over the absent parent should be paying a reduced rate...."

2001-08-03
The Guardian

1bn extra for poor in benefit reform

Patrick Wintour, chief political correspondent

Chancellor's 'simpler' system moves to annual assessments.

The Treasury's plans to revolutionise the tax and benefit system by integrating child support and extending tax credits to all the working poor will cost more than £1bn on top of the £9bn welfare bill.

This article is included for completeness - but it is not about child support in the sense of this web site.

2001-08-07
Lancashire Evening Post

Letters

CSA needs scrapping

I AM the father of a child born in August, 1998. When the parental relationship failed I expected the Government to put in place a mechanism for me to gain access to my child and find a neutral way to get £40 per week to his mother to support that child, as I had a £20,000 a year IT job. I was wrong on both counts. I was harassed out of my job because I refused to live in poverty when the CSA attempted to take £390 per month from my wage. Now I only get to see my son on his mother's say-so and I pay £5.97 per week to his upkeep, while you, the taxpayer, fund the rest. The CSA itself has also with contact by sending a Preston filed officer to the contact centre on August 28, 1999. This agency has no credibility with mothers, fathers or the taxpayer. It should be scrapped entirely and replaced immediately with a Family Support Agency that is fair to all, with decisions taken once again in family courts. An Englishman's right to see his children has to be restored now.

Gary Robinson, Hope Street, Chorley

Agency goes for easy targets.

The CSA has been working on my behalf for 18 months and it is a waste of taxpayers' money. It won't tell you anything and speaks to you as if you are in the wrong. It takes it too long to act - seven months just to arrange a visit. It doesn't have powers to make an absent parent pay. Unfortunately, it goes for the easy target - the person who already pays. I though the purpose of the CSA was to track down those who don't pay, but it hasn't got me a penny in 18 months, even though it knew where my "ex" lived and worked. I used to phone to find out how it was doing, but I don't bother any more. At least I save money on the phone call.

Name and address supplied

2001-09-17
Europe

All in the Family . . . Or Not

In 1997, when X, a 43-year-old building estimator from Surrey, England, and his wife split up after a 14-year marriage, the couple decided that X would take custody of their four sons, then aged eight, 10, 12 and 14. Though the two older boys, B and C, eventually ended up moving in with their mother, X has spent much of the past four years learning how to adjust to the role of a single-parent as he watches D and E grow up under his roof. And X is far from alone. Over the last two decades the number of children living in single-parent households has nearly tripled across Europe. The limited information available shows that in 1983 3.7% of children in the E.U. lived in single parent households and by 2000 this figure had increased to 9.7%. That pattern has been most dramatic in the U.K., where figures jumped from 6.4% in 1983 to 19.8% by 2000. Most single parents are women, but X is one of the few — though growing — number of single fathers in Europe who have taken on the major responsibility of raising their children. "I don't care what anyone says," says X, "it was a shock to start with."

But there have been nagging problems. X is convinced that Britain's Child Support Agency (CSA), the government body responsible for collecting and paying child support maintenance, treats single fathers differently than they do single mothers, particularly in how the agency calculates the amount a working ex-husband must contribute to a non-working ex-wife, as opposed to the reverse scenario. And there are many who share not only X's distrust of the CSA, but also his sense that society in general fails to recognize and understand the needs of working fathers. "The whole system is completely wrong," he complains. "Most bosses don't expect a man to be looking after his children. But at the end of the day I have tried my best to get on and make the best of the situation."

2001-10-17
Ananova

DNA test wins man £30,000 child support rebate

A man is set for a £30,000 rebate from the Child Support Agency after a DNA test proved he did not have a son.

X, 39, of Priory Court, Cardigan, west Wales, paid up to £100-a-week maintenance for the child for more than seven years after a fleeting affair with a woman. Now he is set for a £30,000 CSA refund, plus interest, after acting on long held doubts about his fatherhood and paying £200 for a DNA test.

2001-10-17
BBC

CSA pays back 'wrong' dad

A man from west Wales is to get a £30,000 refund from the Child Support Agency after a DNA test proved he does not have a son.
Thirty-nine-year-old X from Cardigan has paid £100 a week maintenance - a quarter of his wages - for the last seven years after a brief affair with a woman. I don't begrudge the child a penny but I hate being taken for a fool. She swore that he was the child's father and he paid the maintenance even though he had never met his "son." However, he said he was being crippled by the payments and also had a "nagging" doubt that he was not the boy's father. So he paid £200 for the DNA test which proved there was just a one-in-14 million chance he was the father.

It only the second time in Britain that a man has overturned a maintenance order after a DNA test proved he could not have been the father. Meat inspector Mr X, who now has a new girlfriend, is due to get a refund of the £30,000 plus interest in the next few weeks.

A spokesman for the Child Support Agency said: "There are rare circumstances where a person has been paying maintenance and then finds he is not the child's parent." "In that case we will stop collecting maintenance and will refund all the money paid." CSA officials will decide whether the boy's mother will have to bear the cost of refunding the money.

2001-11-06
The Sun

Trail of crazy errors

By MIKE DARVILL

A’s case is the latest in a string of crazy CSA rulings. Last month The Sun exclusively revealed how angry B forked out £30,000 for a son he did NOT father. Bachelor B, 39, of Cardigan, West Wales, paid for SEVEN YEARS until a DNA test proved he was not the dad of his ex-girlfriend’s child. The agency refunded him.

Last December we told how the CSA refunded hotel manager C, 31, of Fenham, Tyneside, just 20p.

In August last year, dad of two D, 47, Murrow Bank, Cambs, killed himself after the CSA forced him to hand over more than two-thirds of his salary to his ex-wife who had dumped him for another man.

Dad E, 29, of Paisley, Renfrewshire, lost his house, job, car and access to his son because of a CSA clanger. He agreed a cash payout to his wife when they split — but the CSA demanded another £7,000 from him over six years. The agency later admitted the case had been badly handled and ordered a rethink.

In July 1999, dad F, 45, was threatened with court action by the CSA after falling into arrears with his maintenance by 1p. They later apologised to F, of Thornton Heath, Surrey.

The same month stunned G, 63, of Dundee, was refused access to her £75 pension because her 40-year-old SON H owed the CSA money.

2001-11-06
The Times

CSA sends seduced boy a £55,000 bill

BY SAM LISTER

A 25-YEAR-OLD man faces a £55,000 maintenance bill for a child he fathered unknowingly when he was 15 after being seduced by a woman twice his age. The plumber, who claims that he knew nothing of the child until he received a letter from the CSA, is now liable for child-support payments until his son finishes full-time education or reaches 19. Mr Walker described his outrage yesterday at being asked to pay child maintenance when he claims the woman, who has not been named, broke the law by having sex with a minor.

A spokesman for the CSA said: “All children have a right of support from both parents. If the parent with care applies for support we are legally bound to assess and collect maintenance.”

2001-11-06
Sun

Lad seduced at 15 faces £55,000 CSA bill

By JOHN SCOTT

A PLUMBER seduced by a woman when he was just 15 is facing a £55,000 maintenance bill for a child he never knew he had. Stunned John Walker, now 25, is being pursued for cash by the Child Support Agency. He is furious at being asked to pay when the woman — who was twice his age — broke the law by bonking him when he was under age.

John, who works for his dad, fears he will have to pay up to 30 per cent of his take-home wages to support the boy, now aged nine. And the demands will continue until the lad finishes fulltime education or reaches 19. The shock move is putting a huge strain on his relationship with his GIRLFRIEND, with whom he has bought a house. His MUM wants to see the boy, her grandchild, even though John does not want to get involved. His DAD was planning to pass his plumbing business on to him — but has put the proposal on hold.

2001-11-07
The Guardian

Man who fathered child at 15 refuses to pay maintenance

Helen Carter

A plumber who fathered a child when he was 15 after he slept with an older woman said yesterday he has no intention of paying maintenance after receiving a bill from the child support agency.

When the CSA contacted him again last week he was shocked to receive a demand for £4,000 maintenance and he has calculated that he will have to pay £55,000 by the time his son has finished full-time education. The agency has told him that it will take 30% of his earnings to support the child.

2001-11-07
Electronic Telegraph

Demand for £55,000 over affair at 15

By Richard Alleyne

A MAN who as a schoolboy had sex with an older woman received a bill a decade later for £55,000 maintenance to support a child he never knew he had. John Walker, 25, is being pursued by the Child Support Agency after a fling he had when he was 15 led to the woman, almost twice his age at the time, having a child. Mr Walker, a plumber with a steady girlfriend, claims he had no idea that he was a father until the CSA demand arrived. At first he believed it was a mistake, but after a DNA test revealed the child was his, he has been forced to pay up.

He said: "It has turned my world upside down. I was 15 at the time. I had no thought of contraception. I thought I was too young to have a baby. "It seems really unfair that I should pay for something I did as a child. She should have been a responsible adult."

Mr Walker moved to Birmingham and thought nothing more of her until he was traced by the CSA. Under CSA rules he will also have to pay for support for the child - up to 30 per cent of his salary - until the boy, now nine, leaves full time education or turns 19. He said: "I hope to marry my current girlfriend and have children with her, but this has thrown everything into doubt."

2001-11-07
Sun

Cluelessly Stupid at All times

ASK a lot of men how they lost their virginity and they go all misty-eyed and talk of an older woman who taught them everything she knew.
John Walker was no exception, so, when a woman twice his age seduced him, he felt like the cat that got the cream. Now, ten years later, he’s got the huge bill to go with it. It turns out that his brief sexual encounter resulted in the birth of a son, now nine years old. Now the good old caring, sharing, CSA has come after him to stump up cash until the boy is at least 18.

It’s not the child’s fault. But it’s not John’s either. When he was seduced he was just six years older than his own son is now. In the eyes of the law he was just a child himself. No, the fault lies squarely at the door of the woman concerned and the organisation laughably known as the Child Support Agency. In reality, it should be renamed the Government Support Agency.

So John Walker’s life is now in tatters as he struggles to comprehend that up to 30 per cent of his already meagre wages could soon be channelled towards a woman who is a virtual stranger.

2001-11-07
Sun

Mum: I didn't seduce boy

THE mum in the CSA “bonkers” row last night denied seducing a schoolboy dad when he was just 15. The woman, now 30 and a mum of five, said: “I’ve done nothing to be ashamed of.” She admitted dating John Walker when he was 15, but insisted she did not sleep with him until his 16th birthday, saying: “It was my present to him.” The Sun told yesterday how John, now 25, faces a £55,000 maintenance bill from the Child Support Agency for a son he never knew he had.

The woman said the affair continued until John’s mother put a stop to it. She says John secretly saw his son 11 days after the birth, then moved away. The CSA got involved when she had to name the dad to claim income support. The boy, now nine, lives in the Midlands with his mum and her partner. She added: “I feel some sympathy for John, but he is the father of this child and he must pay his dues.” Last night John insisted: “She’s talking rubbish.”

MORE than 6,000 Sun readers rang our You the Jury hotline yesterday to slam the CSA for demanding cash from John. Just 348 callers, or five per cent, said the CSA was right.

2001-11-16
This Is Lancashire

CSA almost drove dad to suicide

A CHORLEY man has told how he was driven to the brink of suicide after the Child Support Agency (CSA) bungled his payments leaving him more than £6,000 in arrears.

[X], 38, of Lakeland Gardens, was told by the CSA in April last year that he would have to pay £145 a month towards the upkeep of his three sons. Then in September this year he received a letter from them saying they had recalculated his payments and he should have been paying £469.30 since February last year. They said he was now £6,139.33 in arrears, and to make up the deficit he would have to pay £492.70 a month.

The error occurred because the CSA should have carried out checks every 13 weeks - in fact nothing was done from April 2000 to July this year. [X] dismissed a compensation payment of £125, sent by the CSA along with a letter of apology, as a slap in the face.

The letter of apology from the CSA, said: "It is clear that you have not received the level of service that you should have from our Birkenhead Centre." It added: "Such inconvenience payments are made by way of an apology for agency maladministration and whilst not usually large sums of money, they are nevertheless a tangible recognition that an error or maladministration has occurred."

[X] has now joined the CSA Fellowship in Wigan, a support group for people in a similar position there, and is hoping to expand the group into Chorley.

2001-12-03
Electronic Telegraph

Child access breaches to be punished by courts

By Rachel Sylvester, Political Reporter

MOTHERS who refuse to let the father of their children see their offspring could be punished with community sentences, under plans being drawn up by the Government. The Lord Chancellor's Department plans to introduce legal sanctions against parents with custody of the children who refuse to let the absent parent to have contact. Ministers are concerned that in the past the law has been too biased towards parents with care, usually the mother, and discriminates against absent parents.

Legislation passed this year allows the Child Support Agency to confiscate the driving licence of a father who refuses to pay maintenance. However Lady Hollis, minister responsible for the Child Support Agency, said: "There are no saints or sinners. Children benefit when they get the maintenance they should and when they have contact with both parents." She added: "Obviously it's right that, if we require absent parents to obey the law to pay maintenance, it's also right that parents with care should also respect court rulings." Until now, it has been difficult to enforce court rulings that single mothers should allow the father access to their children.

2001-12-09
Sunday Times

Focus: Bing to rights?

Margarette Driscoll reports on the dilemmas of 'involuntary fatherhood'

He didn't want a child, she's having one anyway. Is Steve Bing a cad for abandoning the pregnant Liz Hurley or a victim of her decision?

For all his millions and his beautiful home among the Hollywood stars, who’d want to be Steve Bing? The playboy film producer with a love of beautiful women — he has dated Sharon Stone and Uma Thurman — suddenly finds himself cast as “the world’s biggest bounder”.
His former girlfriend, Liz Hurley, is pregnant, though Bing believed her to be on the pill. She says the baby is his; he says he’s not so sure. When she told him she was pregnant, she claims he asked her to have an abortion. Now he says he wants a DNA test.

Does he deserve such opprobrium? Humiliating Hurley in public was certainly unfeeling and crass, but to be fair Bing did not want a child and has a very different view to her of their affair. Hurley says she loved Bing “enormously” and was faithful. They were “still very much happy together”, she says, when she found out she was pregnant. Yet they had separated for a period during their affair and he seems to have regarded it as little more than a fling. It could be a very expensive one. If Hurley pursues him successfully through the California courts, he could be forced to hand over up to 28% of his income. Bing’s family has a £400m fortune and he is believed to have an income of at least £500,000 a year.

A surprisingly large number of men seem to be ambushed by fatherhood. Even in settled relationships, many leave the decision-making to the woman. Adrienne Burgess, author of Fatherhood Reclaimed, a study of modern fathers, says about a third become dads “involuntarily”. “Only a few were terribly cross about it,” she says, “but men are generally more than happy to put the responsibility for contraception on the women. They don’t seem to appreciate that once they do that, they are giving up control. People say the male pill would never work because women wouldn’t trust men. Well, men shouldn’t trust women, either.”

Hurley is rich, beautiful and single. It is easy for somebody in her position to get pregnant by accident or, aware that time to have a child is running out, to “forget” contraception. Nobody, except her, knows the truth of what happened. But it is plain that Bing did not want a baby — yet now he has to live with the consequences. His own fault, many might say, for not being more careful.

But David Thomas, author of Not Guilty, In Defence of the Modern Man, disagrees: “I don’t see why a man should have to be a father when he doesn’t actively want to be. “The law and society rightly make a huge issue of women’s consent to have sex, but no attention is paid to a man’s right to consent in reproduction. In cases where a woman has deceived a man (by lying about her contraception), there should be some kind of sanction.” “At the moment there is no legal redress against somebody who tricks or leads you into an 18-year financial commitment, and that’s wrong.”

The problem is, there are no half-measures: you can’t have half a baby if one person wants to keep the child and the other doesn’t. The result? Once upon a time a woman “left holding the baby” was understood to have been left in the lurch. Now the man can be left holding a demand from the Child Support Agency.

James Ward from London was stunned when a woman with whom he’d had a one-night stand (and foolishly assumed was on the pill) rang him up six months later and told him she was pregnant. He was not sure whether to believe her, but DNA tests proved the baby was his. The woman pursued him for maintenance, and he asked to visit his infant daughter. After a second visit “the mother began to get jealous and contact ceased”. Ever since, Ward has been fighting for the right to see his daughter. He has been to court 49 times and travels up to Scotland, where she now lives, four times a year. For him it has been worth the fight, but many estranged or involuntary fathers give up. “The father only has the right to pay money,” says Ward. “That’s not likely to change, because in this area men are so weak and women so strong.”

Paul Jones, a graphic designer from London, has the same struggle ahead. His former girlfriend, with whom he lived for 18 months, became pregnant “accidentally” and, after his initial shock, he was present at his daughter’s birth. But three months later his girlfriend walked out, returning to her native Canada. He now believes the pregnancy was not a lapse of contraception but a calculated move, and that she never intended them to be a family. “Once she was pregnant, I’d served my purpose. She didn’t want me in her life,” he says. He, too, has fought for access and crosses the Atlantic several times each year. It is expensive and stressful. “The child isn’t the mother’s property, but she’ll treat it as her property,” he says.

2001-12-11
Daily Mail

From letters page of the Daily Mail.

"Just pay up

A man who has paid out £220,000 to support a child claims he has a right to know if a child is his or not (Mail). But I know from bitter experience that a man has few rights in this field, if the mother so chooses.

The Child Support Agency will not insist on DNA profile testing once a father has accepted paternity, even if, subsequently, further information comes to light, as it did in my case. Maintenance payments must carry on regardless, and the CSA refuses to accept any responsibilty to investigate any doubt in paternity. If the mother refuses to co-operate, a court can't force her to provide DNA from the child as that would breach the child's human rights.

So even if there are genuine concerns over paternity, there is no way in which a man can exercise his right to know if he is, in fact, the father, and the CSA will still demand the maintenance payments regardless of any concerns. If a father accepts paternity at any stage there is very little he can do to enforce his rights after.

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