(The reasoning behind each item is shown in subsequent sections).
||Have a full disregard (not simply a £10 premium) in Income
Support & JSA(IB) for child support payments.
||Remove any requirement on a claimant for these benefits to apply
to the CSA. (But they can still do so if they choose).
||Reduce the entitlement for Income Support for lone parents to allow
only cases where the youngest child is (say) pre-secondary school,
perhaps 11 or younger.
||Have suitable transition arrangements, probably within the rules
Why have a full disregard?
The objectives of this proposal are:
||To provide extra money to some of the poorest families in the country
- lone parents with young children who believe their place is at home
with the children.
||To provide recognition to the lone parent, and the children, of
the non-resident parent's full contribution, instead
of masking part of the contribution.
||To provide an extra incentive to the non-resident parent to pay
in full, because there is a clear advantage to the children from every
||To eliminate such excuses for not paying as "it doesn't get
to the children anyway". (This is an enduring image that people
have about the CSA, with good - historical - reason).
The government's identified reasons at the moment for not
having a full disregard are:
||There is an agreement with the Treasury to be "Treasury neutral"
over the next few years.
||Child support payments over £10 act as an additional financial
incentive for a lone parent to work for at least 16 hours per week,
and therefore to switch to a tax credit which then does
have a full disregard.
Both of those (valid) reasons are dealt with in following sections.
Why remove the requirement to claim child support?
(As now, with this proposal either parent can still claim
if they choose).
With a full disregard, as proposed here, there is no need for such a
requirement. There is no longer a taxpayer interest in the matter.
The objectives of this proposal are:
||To remove a potentially embarrassing inefficiency in the reformed
CSA. In most cases in future where a lone parent is forced to
use the CSA because she claims Income Support, there will actually
be no saving for the Treasury! But there will be the cost to the taxpayer
of running unnecessary cases, with obvious implications for the operation
of the CSA. (This is examined in more detail later).
||To encourage separated parents to make their own arrangements if
they can, with the CSA still available if they can't.
||To avoid the resentment (and perhaps Human Rights implications)
of "state intrusion" into the lives of separated families
where there is no taxpayer interest.
||To avoid any resentment by the lone parent that the non-resident
parent is reluctant to cooperate with support (in cases where the
non-resident parent sees no case for going beyond what the CSA demands
||To avoid any resentment by the non-resident parent who might believe
that the CSA is involved because of vindictiveness.
(The last two points reflect the fact that the intrusion of the CSA sometimes
drives a further wedge between separated parents at a sensitive time).
Why remove the entitlement to Income Support where all children are
There is universal agreement that there are advantages for adults, children,
taxpayers, and the economy in having as many people as possible in work.
But with the reformed CSA, there is inadequate means to achieve this.
The proposal here is to match the incentives and pressures to get back
to work according to the age of the youngest child:
||Where children are particularly young (for example, pre-school)
there is not a consensus that it is better for a lone
mother to be at work (perhaps with the child in childcare). In fact,
it is probably better to provide a neutral attitude, and let such
a mother receive the full child support and the full Income Support
if she chooses. This is a very personal matter when children are at
that age, which depends on personal and local conditions.
||Where the youngest child is at school, but pre-secondary school,
there is much more of a case for the lone parent to be at work. But
using child support as an extra incentive is unlikely to be very effective.
In most cases they will already see all the child support
anyway because of the £10 premium, and there will be few cases
where they see a significant amount compared with all the other amounts
they are entitled to. The reduced cost of childcare because the children
are older will probably make a bigger difference. (The tax credit
only pays 70% of the cost).
||But once the youngest is at secondary school, it is far easier to
work for at least 16 hours per week. And it is at this stage where
children are most likely to benefit from having a role model of a
working adult. It is now important that the lone parent gets properly
established in work before the point at which the lone parent is no
longer entitled to as much state support. It is probably important
for the lone parent to get prepared for the expenses of the child's
further education too. (Some jobs are being advertised as "term
||This latter is the point where the Treasury can start to save some
of the money released as a result of the other proposals. A larger
number of lone parents will now become economically active. (I do
not have the information needed to predict whether this will in fact
be Treasury neutral, but in the long term surely it will be).
All the lone parents I know believe that once children have reached this
age, they (the parents) have many more options available, and indeed all
of the ones I know are working.
It goes without saying that throughout all of the above stages, the "New
Deal" approach to persuading lone parents of the advantages of getting
to work, and assistance if they want to do so, should continue.
Why have transition arrangements?
There are two sorts of transition needed:
||For lone parents currently on Income Support who will no longer
be entitled to it because of the age of their youngest child. It is
common for legislation to take transition cases into account, sometimes
as special cases for a few years. Perhaps this could be handled by
allowing them more time to claim JSA(IB) than other cases.
||For parents who separate in future when their youngest child is
too old for entitlement to Income Support. They may need some time
to "find their feet" before getting a job, if they have
not been working before separation. Once again, perhaps this could
be handled by allowing them more time to claim JSA(IB) than other
I have no strong views on this matter, which would obviously have to
be discussed with expert parties.