Covering letter to David Blunkett, SoS for the DWP

This was a covering letter accompanying my paper:
"Child Support should be for Children" - A proposal for reform

A nearly identical covering letter for another copy of the same paper was sent to the Mr Stephen Geraghty, CEO of the CSA, for the attention of the CSA Review Team.

(Address removed)

(Copied to the CSA review team).

10 September 2005

Dear Mr Blunkett

I am the founder and chief analyst of "Child Support Analysis", a small independent think-tank. It studies "child support in the UK and topics related to child support". (It is described on the "Working for an MP" website as "fairly balanced, if somewhat cynical"!)

I responded to the CSA Reform Green Paper. I gave evidence to the DSS Select Committee in September 1999. I have continued to correspond with politicians and the media. I appeared on BBC TV with Frank Field, MP, the day before the new scheme started.

In 2002, I proposed a simplification of the UK's child support system in the enclosed (concise) paper. Its last paragraph speaks for the paper:

"This will reduce the operating costs, and improve the likelihood of success, of the reformed CSA. (Anything that can help this is desirable! There is nothing in this proposal that would make the CSA's task harder)."

The paper proposed that the CSA should cease to attempt to reduce benefits expenditure. It should treat Income Support in the way it treats tax credits, and "disregard" it. A consequence would be that the CSA would never get involved if neither parent wanted it, even if one was on benefits. There is an obvious disadvantage. But the advantages would be: a smaller caseload, as cases which neither parent wants are cancelled; no interaction with the benefits system; a single clear objective that few would disagree with; more money going to children.

This proposal met with objections from Frank Field, on the TV programme, and in letters from Steve Webb, MP, and Baroness Hollis, the minister at the time. Predictably, they argued that savings taxpayer's money was a good objective. As a childfree taxpayer, I obviously understand that position! But a dysfunctional CSA serves no one well, including taxpayers.

The objective of reducing benefits expenditure has rightly been steadily eroded in the face of other more urgent objectives. The CSA is not used to reduce tax credit expenditure. There is a £10 disregard in the new scheme. The Treasury saving is not the priority it once was, and I believe it is time to sacrifice it to help recover from the current situation. As I said on TV:

"Until we can get the Treasury out of the loop we won't be able to think of how child support should work for families and children".

Yours sincerely

Barry Pearson

Page last updated: 13 September, 2005 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2005