2002 articles - 1st half
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Milton Keynes on Sunday
cop faces axe after CSA case
A DETECTIVE working for the fraud squad has been convicted of deception.
[X] is now facing the sack for lying to the Child Support Agency
and benefiting by £2,115.
DC [X], 46, lied about his journeys to and from work in order to
pay less maintenance. He was living in Leeds and working in Luton
at the time but on some occasions he was able to live closer to
the office, cutting down on the number of trips he told the CSA
he was making.
Trying to discover from the CSA how his case had been assessed
proved impossible and he sought the aid of his MP, Fabian Hamilton,
who told Judge Zoe Smith how, in the past two years, he had seen
the officer's physical and mental health deteriorate because of
his problems with the CSA. Stone was ordered to carry out a 180-hour
community punishment and pay £750 costs.
Bedfordshire Police Federation representative Gary Albert told
the court that [X] would now face a disciplinary charge and was
likely to lose his job.
Milton Keynes on Sunday
cop faces sack for lying to the CSA
DETECTIVE [X] is facing the sack for lying to the Child Support
Agency while working for Bedfordshire's fraud squad. Det Con [X],
46, lied about his journeys to and from work and benefited to the
tune of £2,115.
He was living in Leeds and working in Bedfordshire but on some
occasions he was able to live closer to the office, cutting down
on the number of trips he told the CSA he was making. The court
heard that, following a divorce from his first wife, [X] paid her
£420 through the CSA for their two children. But he was constantly
being hit with demands for arrears, which went up to as much as
£5,000, and, forced to pay extra, he was saddled with financial
Milton Keynes on Sunday
bleeds me dry, says traffic warden
TRAFFIC warden [X] claims he cannot afford to live after being
forced to pay thousands of pounds a year in child maintenance.
Mr [X], who is divorced, has more than £300 a month taken
from his Luton Borough Council wages to support his eight-year-old
daughter Kirsty. After paying his monthly bills, he says, he has
no money left.
He said: "I feel sorry for the policeman because I know exactly
where he's coming from. "I've got no choice but to pay the
money and of course I want to look after my daughter but the CSA
don't care that I'm left penniless. "I'm living on the bread
line. I literally have no money left after I've paid everything
out. "I live in a little flat above a shop in Bury Park. I
don't feel like I lead a normal life. "Even though I work hard
in a very tough, demanding, full-time job, I've got nothing to show
for it at the end of the month."
model example of single motherhood?
Liz Hurley won't be your usual unwed mum, but in paternity and
maintenance issues she will have to make her case in law like anyone
else, says Penny Lewis
In this increasingly fractured society, the model and actress Liz
Hurley is not alone in facing motherhood outside the traditional
nuclear family. The tabloids have dined out on the seductive story
of the British beauty bedded by an American playboy millionaire,
Steve Bing. Miss Hurley claims she became pregnant during the couple's
apparently short liaison. Now she must make her case in law like
any other single mother.
The immediate task facing the mother is establishing paternity.
Fortunately for Hurley, Bing has agreed to a DNA test, an almost
infallible means of resolving this issue.
The Child Support Agency (CSA), the government body responsible
for assessing, collecting and enforcing child maintenance, says
most fathers confirm paternity when asked. In disputed cases the
CSA offers discount DNA tests, with the cost refunded if results
prove negative. Robin Spon-Smith, a barrister based at London family
law chambers, 1 Mitre Court, says where paternity is in doubt "the
court can make a direction for blood testing but the father cannot
be compelled to comply. However, adverse inferences can be drawn
in these circumstances".
If fatherhood is established the man will, irrespective of the
brevity of his relationship with the mother, incur shared liability
for the child's upbringing. This rule applies even if pregnancy
occurred by "entrapment". "No protestations that
the woman said that she had taken precautions will let the man off
the financial hook," says Neil Russell, a matrimonial solicitor
with Westminster firm BD Laddie. Russell says "proving that
someone had lied would be difficult". Effectively, courts are
likely to be influenced by the fact that no contraception is foolproof.
Moreover, even if the man did not intend to impregnate his partner,
in performing sexual congress, he assumed a risk of this happening.
Artificial insemination or test tube babies where the donor is
a third party leave the long-term partner or husband responsible
for their offspring as if the baby had been conceived naturally.
Anonymous donors, though, owe no financial obligations to child
Spon-Smith says that in cases involving financial support for children
"the most important question is, 'Where is the father?'"
Significantly, the CSA only has jurisdiction where the child, person
with care and absent parent are all habitually resident in the UK.
Accordingly, if a father lives in the US, proceedings may need to
be commenced against him to secure maintenance. These could take
place in America or here under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.
This "provides a financial regime for children of unmarried
parents". Although there is no financial ceiling, Spon-Smith
regards domestic awards as ungenerous compared with the US as they
reflect only the financial needs of the child in its minority.
Russell adds that, except in contested divorce cases, the CSA will
be the mainstay of financial support for parents of middle to low
income brackets. It allows for basic expenses, not a "Rolls-Royce
lifestyle". For the more affluent parent who can afford a luxurious
standard of living, it is worth applying for extra support through
the courts under the Children Act 1989. This can be used to fund
private education as well as capital, lump sum and property adjustment
Russell, accordingly, recommends that "women who are planning
to have children are better off being married than living under
the misapprehension that as an unmarried partner you will be properly
provided for if the relationship breaks down".
(Birmingham) Evening Mail
Child support groups scoops award
The customer service team at the Dudley centre of the Child Support
Agency has won a Charter Mark. The Charter Mark is a government
award scheme which rewards improvement in public services.
The Dudley centre excelled because of the improvement it made in
dealing with customer complaints. Janis Crook, Area Director for
the Midlands Business Unit, said "I'm delighted at the sucess
of the Midlands Business nit Customer Services Team who have joined
the client helpline in achieving this award".
the names of the fathers
Easier DNA testing could lead to more paternity disputes
Ann Northover, a solicitor with the Mayfair law firm Gordon Dadds
Advances in DNA-testing techniques to establish paternity, and
easier access for the general public to such tests, are fast producing
a number of new legal situations. There have been several recent
significant changes in legislation affecting the family, including
the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on
the Rights of the Child (which states that a child, where possible,
has a right to know his or her parents), producing a potentially
In a recent case (17 October, 2001), a 39-year-old Welsh man, [X],
is to receive a refund of £30,000 in maintenance, plus interest,
from the Child Support Agency (CSA). For seven years he had paid
maintenance for a child he had never met, but thought was his. He
then underwent a DNA paternity test through the court, and found
he was not the father. The parties had only had a brief affair.
In certain circumstances, the CSA is allowed to presume parentage
and make an assessment against the presumed father, even if he does
not accept that the child is his. A "parent" is defined
in child-support legislation as a person who is, in law, the mother
or father of the child, which includes adoptive parents but, importantly,
excludes step-parents. The circumstances allowing such a presumption
have just been extended. This could lead to more assessments being
made, and to more "mistakes", which the alleged fathers
will undoubtedly dispute. If a man is named on the birth certificate
or refuses to undergo a DNA test, it can now be automatically presumed
that he is the father.
So, how can a putative father obtain a DNA test? The correct approach
is to seek a court order for sampling. An important recent change
in the law now allows the courts to override the objection of the
parent with care and control (usually the mother), provided that
a DNA test is in the best interests of the child.
Perhaps more fathers will be tempted to obtain DNA tests without
making a court application, but by trying a little self-help instead.
This is frowned on by the courts, but it is already simple to buy
home kits or obtain DNA sampling services via the internet. Testing
is now quicker and easier, as DNA can be examined from not only
blood, but also from hair follicles and body fluids. Surreptitious
tests are being made from perhaps a few hairs taken from a child's
jumper. This testing relies on samples only from the child and the
alleged father. Formal testing usually requires all three individuals,
including the mother, to be tested. Such a DIY test is often the
precursor to an application to the court, although evidence obtained
by the use of a kit, undertaken without a medical practitioner or
the approval of the parent with care and control, is unlikely to
carry any weight with the court.
Whatever the motive, it seems likely that we will see a rise in
applications for DNA testing. And besides demand from "fathers",
there may also be demand from children or adults who
want to discover their true parents, in the same way that an adopted
child wishes to know his or her roots.
it possible to have a paternity test done?
Dr Fred Kavalier: A Question of Health
Is it possible to have a paternity test done without going through
a solicitor or the Child Support Agency? I want to discover who
is the father of my son.
Paternity tests based on DNA technology are very accurate and can
be done on a tiny sample of blood. It is essential to have a sample
from both the child and the presumed father. Commercial laboratories
will perform these tests, and you need not involve the CSA of a
solicitor. The Department of Health has published a code of practice
for labs. The biggest lab providing this service is Cellmark Diagnostics
(01235 528 000).
reforms will bring chaos, claim Lib Dems
Lucy Ward, political correspondent
The child support agency will descend into "chaos and confusion"
under reforms to child support payments due to come into force next
month, the government was warned yesterday. The wholesale shake-up
of the formula for calculating the payments, which the government
argues will simplify the much criticised existing arrangements and
so increase the numbers of parents paying, will lead to a two tier
system and prompt thousands of appeals, the Liberal Democrats claimed.
The appeals service serving the CSA has acknowledged it expects
"a significant increase" in the number of appeals over
child support, potentially totalling as many as two million mothers
and fathers who have abided by the current arrangements.
Government estimates obtained by the Lib Dem work and pensions
spokesman, Steve Webb, show that two thirds of working parents living
away from their children - usually fathers - are expected to pay
less under the reforms, leaving mothers with less financial support
from former partners. Meanwhile, phasing in over around a year of
the new maintenance formula would create a system of "winners
and losers" in which fathers in similar circumstances were
paying potentially dramatically different sums, he said.
The Liberal Democrats yesterday renewed calls for the CSA to be
abolished, highlighting further figures showing that the agency
delivers on average only £5 maintenance per week per child,
of which the Treasury takes back a third from mothers on benefits.
The party argues that, at an annual cost of £250m, with only
half of eligible parents paying the correct amount and over a quarter
paying nothing, the CSA is unable to enforce collection and is unlikely
to improve under the new arrangements.
Support Agency reforms delayed
Tough new penalties for fathers who fail to pay maintenance are
to be delayed, Work and Pensions Secretary Alistair Darling told
The measures, intended to combine a simpler Child Support Agency
system with sterner sentences for parents, were due to come into
effect in April 2002.
But in a statement to the Commons, Mr Darling said testing of the
new Child Support computer system, built by EDS, was not yet complete.
Mr Darling said the delay was "frustrating" and "regrettable",
but insisted it was important to get the IT right and not to take
a chance on a system needed to support parents and children.
Shadow Works and Pensions Secretary David Willetts said the delay
would leave families "in limbo".
He claimed the statement was only a delaying mechanism for a "desperately
important" debate on the deployment of British troops to Afghanistan
and a way for Tony Blair to avoid staying in the House of Commons
for that debate. "The longer the gap between Prime Minister's
questions and the debate, the easier it is for them to stay away,"
But Mr Darling said he was not prepared to put families through
the same chaos that descended in 1993 when the CSA was created and
its computer system collapsed because it was not ready.
He told the Commons that while he wanted to see the new IT system
in place "as soon as possible" he would not proceed until
he was satisfied that it was "working to the standards I expect".
"In my view, until the testing process is complete, I will
not have the assurance I need to authorise the start of the new
system," said Mr Darling.
"I have therefore decided to defer the planned start date.
The new system will only be implemented when the supporting IT is
Mr Darling insisted: "There was a choice - I could have taken
a chance, but that meant taking a chance on the support for children
"In my judgment, it is better to take time needed to get it
right than repeat the mistakes made in 1993."
chaos halts CSA reform
Reform of the child support agency has been delayed to allow more
time to test new computer systems, the work and pensions secretary,
Alistair Darling, announced in the Commons today.
Mr Darling conceded that the delay was "frustrating and regrettable"
but said he was not prepared to take a chance on support for children.
"I know that many parents are anxious to see the changes introduced
as soon as possible but I judged that the risk of proceeding before
testing was complete was unacceptable," he said in a statement.
Mr Darling was unable to give a revised date for the changes, which
were due to take effect at the end of April, but promised to keep
MPs updated on progress.
Tories said the delay was "serious" and many families
would be "left in limbo" by the announcement.
of Child Support Agency is halted by IT glitch
By Nigel Morris, Political Correspondent
The planned overhaul of the Child Support Agency was postponed
last night because of problems with the new computers that will
The switch to a new, streamlined system of payments to lone parents
was delayed just one month before the reform was to be launched.
In a Commons statement, Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State
for Work and Pensions, said extra time was needed to test the CSA's
new multimillion-pound computer network.
"The delay is frustrating and is regrettable," he said.
"There was a choice. I could have taken a chance, but that
meant taking a chance on support for children and for parents. That
could not be justifited." He added: "I know many parents
are anxious to see the changes introduced as soon as possible, but
I judged the risk of proceeding before testing was complete was
The CSA computer system, which was due to come on stream on 22
April, is being developed by the American company EDS. Its introduction
had already been delayed from last October.
The Work and Pensions Department was unable to confirm last night
when the CSA computers would be ready to process fresh claims, but
said the firm would not be paid until they were up and running.
The Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb described the delay as a "shambles".
He said: "If this computer system can't cope with the trickle
of new cases, then what chance is there that it will be able to
handle the flood of existing cases once they are transferred? It
is the latest in a long line of botched government IT projects."
Kate Green, director of the National Council for One Parent Families,
said: "The delay is disappointing but the system has to be
right so that children get a properly resourced service that actually
delivers the maintenance they need, rather than a rushed, untested
system which parents could have little confidence in."
reforms delayed indefinitely
By Jill Sherman, Whitehall Editor
THE long-awaited reform of the Child Support Agency (CSA) has been
delayed indefinitely owing to yet another Whitehall computer fiasco.
In a Commons statement Alistair Darling, the Work and Pensions Secretary,
said that the reforms to simplify maintenance payments from absent
parents would not go ahead next month as planned.
He said that there would inevitably be cost implications, although
he said that the contract with EDS specified that the department
would not pay for the system until it met the standards required.
He said that the system was nearly completed but testing was not.
In 1999 the Government announced that the system would start operating
by autumn 2001, but a few months later Mr Darling said that the
reforms would be delayed till April 2002. Professor Steve Webb said:
This is the latest in a long line of botched government IT
projects. We have been warning for over two years that this was
a disaster waiting to happen.
support - Tightening the net on absent fathers
Getting absent fathers, and occasionally mothers, to pay towards
their children's upbringing has long been fraught with legal difficulties
Richard Colbey, a barrister
The Child Support Agency, established in 1993 and about to be overhauled
again, has become one of the most derided of government agencies.
In 1995 there were reforms that reduced the amount that many absent
fathers would have to pay. But these were complex and still produced
results many claimed were anomalous, so the law has been changed
again with effect from next month. At first, only new applications
will be affected, but existing orders will gradually be brought
One anomaly that remains is that the parties cannot agree to prevent
the CSA becoming involved when they settle their finances after
divorce. Not even a court order can have that effect. The purpose
of the provision may be to prevent over-bearing fathers from making
mothers agree to too little, particularly where the real beneficiary
of any child support would be the DSS, but it causes many uncertainties.
Catherine Aherne, a barrister specialising in high value divorce
settlements, explains: "Often the parties and their lawyers
have spent a lot of time negotiating a precise settlement that seems
fair to everyone. This may be fine tuned to produce tax advantages.
Everybody is aware of the orders the CSA can make and should take
them into account in dividing up the assets and agreeing maintenance.
If an application is subsequently made to the CSA that agreement
is distorted, and may have to be expensively re-negotiated."
When Graham Jenkins (not his real name) divorced his wife Cathy
in 1999 he fell into this trap. At the time he was earning £80,000
as a software engineer and had about £500,000 saved up. However,
they both felt that Graham's income might fall dramatically if the
"dotcom" boom collapsed. He agreed to give Cathy all but
£25,000 of his savings on the informal understanding she would
invest it to produce an income so she would have enough to support
the children, then aged eight, five and three, adequately if he
did lose his job. In exchange she agreed not to seek any further
maintenance for herself or the children. In fact, Graham's career
has marched on and he now earns around £120,000. He voluntarily
gives Cathy £1,000 per month, but knows the CSA could order
him to pay double that, if she applied. He says: "In one sense
I couldn't complain if I had to pay more towards my kids, but they
and Cathy are well provided for on the basis of what we agreed,
and I would feel cheated if she went behind it."
man's identity mixed up with convicted murderer
By Chris Dearden, Thurrock Reporter
Andrew Barry Palmer is 36 and a Compurer Support Analyst from East
Tilbury in Essex. He does not have any children, which is why he
was surprised to receive a statement from the Child Support Agency
in January this year. It told him about a 17-year-old son he had
fathered with a woman he has never met.
"At first I thought it might be a joke", he said. But
as he investigated further, he uncovered an identity mixup which
went back over 15 years, and had led to three government agencies
thinking he was the same person as a man serving life for murder.
A few days and several phone calls later, a man from the CSA rang
back to tell Andy Palmer he was not the child's father.
But Andy Palmer says there are still many unanswered questions,
such as why the other Andrew Palmer did not get a National Insurance
Number when he was 16. The Metropolitan Police have been called
in to check the true identity of the man in prison. His MP, Andrew
Mackinlay, has been working on the case and lobbying the Government
for answers. Mr Mackinlay said "the case shows a weakness in
the Government's record keeping. The fact it can go on for so long
shows how new technology isn't foolproof, and indeed throws up its
own new problems."
Milton Keynes on Sunday
says sorry for the mistake
THE Child Support Agency has admitted a mistake which led to a
mother-of-three going without maintenance from the husband who abandoned
her over two years ago.
[X] has been surviving on income support since [Y] walked out of
the family home leaving her to provide for their three children.
[X], from Westminster Gardens, Houghton Regis, was forced to give
up her job as a secretary in an estate agent while Mr [Y] moved
in with a new partner and carried on earning more than £20,000
per year as a production operator at IBC in Luton.
Now the CSA has apologised and sent her £105 compensation
while they fast-track her claim. Mrs [X], 34, said: "I'm angry
and bitter. The CSA is a waste of space. I've been waiting for two
years for some money which it was their job to get for me. "Apart
from the fact that my children have suffered as a result, there's
a wider issue at stake because taxpayers have been subsidising me
through income support when it should have been my husband.
Commenting on the compensation payment which arrived last week
she said: "It's an insult, though you can't put a price on
the stress the CSA has caused me for the past two years."
men shouldn't get trapped by baby-hungry women
But what of high-achieving men? Can they have it all? Or if not,
the best bits? Who is to show them how to avoid the wrong turnings
and immature lack of foresight that can lead so easily to lifelong
regrets, public shame, fatal disease, or all three at the same time?
In my forthcoming book, Woman Terror, I hope to save the current
generation of young men from making the mistakes of their predecessors,
many of whom ended up on a joyless treadmill, already supporting
a wife and children in their 20s only to endure a mid-life crisis,
usually accompanied by adultery, a new family and divorce proceedings
in their 40s, followed in a tragically high number of cases by undiagnosed
heart disease (often exacerbated by over-dependence on alcohol and
Viagra), an early death and, in some especially sad cases, a pauper's
grave, all their money having been siphoned away by a succession
of wives and children. And that's the good news. The bad news is
that as more and more women engage in Sylvia Ann Hewlett's backward
mapping, these trends can only get worse.
What I shall be telling men, very much as Sylvia Ann urged women
in the Times this week, is "do yourself a favour. If you are
a twentysomething-year-old, try to figure out what you want in your
40s, and try and be intentional about it."
Don't just drift into commitment, then find yourself, like Giles,
a classic case of doing it too soon, as a father of eight, paying
for everything from school fees to his wife's Botox injections at
an age when he hadn't even expected to start a family. I'm not saying
don't have a child. I'm saying why bother even thinking about it
until you're at least 35? Or older. It's not as if you have to reproduce
with a high-achieving woman of your own generation. Indeed, at the
age of 35 such a choice would be biologically perverse. Your sperm
should still be in tip-top condition.
So what is Woman Terror? It is the feeling described by one of
my case studies, Bert, who found himself a father and married in
his 20s to a woman who, he now realises, was only interested in
him because she was suffering from baby hunger and had reached a
critical point in her backward mapping. He believes her unplanned
pregnancy, six months into their relationship, was no accident.
"I'd expected to be golfing and having meaningless sexual relationships
until well into my 30s, or even 40s," he says. Now a ravaged
father of six who looks a decade older than his 37 years, Bert has
recently suffered from disfiguring boils and high blood pressure,
and has been told to cut down on his workload. "But I can't,"
he says, helplessly. "I'm the breadwinner and there's no way
out. If we divorce, she'll get the house. And anyway, I'd just get
trapped again. There are so many desperate twentysomething women
out there. I've cried myself to sleep for months."
I asked Bert what his advice was for a 25-year-old man and he said:
"For God's sake, don't get hitched and have kids. Not until
you're at least 40." And Bob is not alone. The statistics are
terrifying. A US study found that 80% of married ultra-achievers
wish they had more time for pets or hobbies. In England, 93% of
men aged under 75 say they would like to visit a lap-dancing club,
just to see what it was like, but are scared that their wives would
For men such as Bert and Giles my book comes too late. For younger
men with a high level of Woman Terror, a vasectomy may be advisable,
though not necessarily reversible. And for the rest? Give urgent
priority to avoiding potential partners. This project deserves special
attention during your 20s, when your achieving women contemporaries
are likely to be at their most cunning. But there are no easy answers.
For men who try to have it all, the result - in at least 75% of
cases, according to new US research - will be drudgery, disappointment
and eternal damnation. Sorry!
hunters go it alone
One result of baby hunger is an increasing number of women who
decide to go it alone. They might regard themselves as liberated
women opting for single parenthood but to men they are sperm hunters
little better than thieves.
Lauren, 34, is a lawyer with an eight-year-old son conceived without
the knowledge of Ben, the biological father. I met him at
a party and the chemistry was quite amazing, she said. Ben
has blue eyes and a Bob Dylan-type face, just gorgeous. The
couple had a casual relationship for three years but Lauren knew
she would not have a life with Ben. I wanted to be connected
to him, to have a child like him but without his bad bits,
she said. I knew I could handle being a single mum so I stopped
taking the pill. Ben does not know he has a child. Men
like Ben are victims of womens choices, its true,
she said. But I didnt want to share my life with Ben
just because hed fathered my child.
On the face of it, the idea of sperm hunting does not
make sense. It is women who decide whether to carry a pregnancy
to term whatever the circumstances surrounding the conception.
But there is a difference between accidental and intentional pregnancy
sex. It does seem unfair for men to pay child maintenance after
a birth over which they had no control. No wonder some men feel
exploited when nobody asks what they want. Bizarrely, men have been
accused for years of reneging on their responsibilities by leaving
women at the first sight of a baby wipe. Now some women positively
want them to disappear.
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