Description of the reformed system
Before the Child Support Acts
In 1974, the Finer Report, or "The Report of the Committee on One Parent Families", prophetically recommended that maintenance of an ex-spouse and children should be covered by an administrative agency, rather than by the courts. Little became of this proposal at the time. (See Jenkinson).
By the late 1980s it was increasingly obvious that the court system for assessing child maintenance wasn't working well. Amounts assessed were unpredictable, but tended to be relatively small. The courts, not having other guidelines, assumed that the social security system would support the lone parent household (typically the mother), leaving the other parent with nearly all his income to pay for a new house and possibly a new family. This left children at the poverty line, and left the lone parent unable to work. There were objections from all sides of the political spectrum, based on taxpayer pressure and moral panic.
Many other nations and states in the world were having similar problems. Many of them decided to solve these by having guidelines for child maintenance related to actual costs of bringing up children. Some set up separate agencies. Some used their tax office. Others still used the courts, but required them to use a formula. The UK joined this trend quite late.
The Child Support Acts
The UK's legislation, the 1991 Child Support Act, was badly thought out and inadequately debated. The Child Support Agency that started in April 1993 was ill prepared and was an administrative disaster from the start. It has continued to be the most administratively incompetent government agency in living memory. Complaints about the CSA are the single most common topic of discussions between MPs and their constituents.
Various modifications, including the 1995 Child Support Act, failed to stop the complaints and left the agency still unable to achieve sensible targets. The Labour Party stated that it would apply dramatic reforms if it won the 1997 general election. It did win, and immediately started the reform process.
The result of this reform process was the 2000 Child Support, Pensions, and Social Security Act. The implications of this will be described in following pages.
References & other sources
CHILD SUPPORT: A COMPARISON OF THE OLD AND NEW APPROACHES by Susan Grace Jenkinson LL.M.
|Page last updated: 17 December, 2003||© Copyright Barry Pearson 2003|