Description of the reformed system
The Labour Party said that it would reform the child support system if it won the 1997 general election. It won, and immediately started the reform process. The result was the 2000 Child Support, Pensions, and Social Security Act. Here is what happened.
These were part of wider reforms promised for the welfare state. Frank Field was supposed to "think the unthinkable". It didn't happen. Nearly all the changes were either copies of systems in other nations (eg. Working Families Tax Credit is similar to Earned Income Tax Credit in the USA) or were "tweaks" to the existing system.
The first official statement of the government's direction was in the Green Paper (consultation document) of July 1998. It stated, "Child support is about families as well as finances" and "Children have a right to care and support from both their parents, wherever they live". It proposed a simplified formula based on 15% / 20% / 25% of net income. Long before this appeared there had been leaks to the press that this was to be the formula, so probably the government never seriously considered anything other than changing the CSA.
Almost exactly a year after this, the White Paper (policy document) appeared. Now the statement was "We will put the need for regular and reliable payments of maintenance at the heart of the new system and we will introduce effective and prompt sanctions for those who try to avoid providing for their children". So much for "families" and "care"! This document provided the basis, with few changes, for subsequent legislation.
In September 1999, the Social Security Select Committee took evidence from many parties about this policy. NACSA (Andy Farquarson) presented their case for replacing the CSA. Families Need Fathers presented their case for a better CSA formula. (I was part of the FNF team, and helped show that the formula was biased against NRPs). The Committee's report was rather "conservative", and the government's response was "we intend to follow the White Paper". But the Committee's report explains a lot of the thinking behind the reforms.
The government "placed a Bill before Parliament". This was mainly about changes to the 1991 and 1995 Acts, so was tricky to read. This was then debated clause-by-clause, sentence-by-sentence, in Standing Committee F - a group of MPs, normally with a Social Security minister present. Proposed changes were voted upon. Mostly the government resisted change, but some changes were made - the cap at £2000 per week income first appeared here. Some reasons for resistance are recorded here, so we can understand more why the legislation is what it is.
The amended Bill became the 2000 Child Support, Pensions, and Social Security Act. This was voted upon by Parliament, and received the Royal Assent. Wherever it talks about "regulations", these have since been appearing as Statutory Instruments. The Act makes about 3 dozen changes to law, and these have steadily been coming into operation.
Here is a summary of where to read about the reform programme.
|Page last updated: 17 December, 2003||© Copyright Barry Pearson 2003|