Weblog archive for June 2003

15th June

Dutch doctor ordered to pay for baby's education!

The consequences of this for child support are weird! "A Dutch doctor who made a mistake with a women's contraception has been ordered to pay for her baby's education. A judge ruled that the doctor, from Ede, should pick up the bill as it was his fault she had her unplanned baby".

In the UK, attempts by mothers to claim from health authorities because of failures of birth control have failed. Financial responsibility remains strictly with the mother and father. There is no indication that this case is one where the mother also claims child support. But it would appear to weaken any strict liability if it were a child support case. How could the father be required to pay full child support if the doctor were also paying towards the cost of bringing up the child?

Ananova, Algemeen Dagblad, Doctor ordered to pay for baby's education

15th June

More misleading news articles about proposed legislation on paternity testing

Today's Telegraph has a couple of articles stating that the government intends to make it illegal for putative fathers to take samples of children's DNA in order to commission an unofficial paternity test. The articles identify the Human Genetics Commission's recent report "Genes Direct - Ensuring the effective oversight of genetic testing services supplied directly to the public". They quote Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, the chair of the HGC.

In fact, there HGC has not consulted recently on such paternity testing. It has not made a specific recommendation on the matter. The original consultation document that lead to the recent report said:

"There is also a Code of Practice on Genetic Paternity Testing Services, published in 2001, which sets out good practice for testing mothers, their children and putative fathers in order to establish parentage. Such tests generally involve a DNA test that is offered direct to the public, but we do not intend to deal with them at this stage of the review. This is a distinct area of testing which raises different issues, not least that it often involves the testing of third parties who are children. We feel that it is more appropriate to focus in this consultation on tests aimed at health and lifestyle issues. We will consider the subject of paternity testing at a later stage".

The "Genes Direct" report itself said:

"We have also indicated that we will look further at the arrangements covering paternity testing to see what, if any, changes might need to be made in light of our report and the responses that we have heard".... "There are some types of genetic testing (as we define it) which will almost certainly take place outside of any medical consultation. In particular, the use of ‘DNA fingerprinting’ techniques to establish family relationships (such as paternity testing) or ancestry (genealogy testing) are potentially large markets for commercial DNA testing. We have not considered in detail the implications of our report for these types of testing, but we intend conducting a short additional review of the current arrangements for paternity testing and genealogy testing."

I have submitted 2 papers to the HGC on this topic (see "Articles & papers"), and there is a lot of other relevant material on this web site. I hope that there is a proper consultation on paternity testing before the government is mislead and "bumped" into hasty, unethical, and probably unworkable legislation.

On this web site - Parentage, especially paternity

Link to the HGC consultation on direct genetic testing services
Link to the HGC "Genes Direct" report

Telegraph, Colin Brown, Secret testing on 'stolen' DNA to be outlawed
Telegraph, I love my son, but I have to know: is he mine?

19th June

Some adverse trends in the latest CSA statistics

The DWP has recently published the CSA statistics for the quarter to February 2003. Previously, they were published on the web as a PDF file. This time they have been published as an Excel spreadsheet. Some of the summary information previously available now has to be calculated explicitly, but it is now easier to calculate extra results, especially extra comparisons with the November 2002 statistics. Here are some results:

The caseload has dropped by nearly 1 in 12, and is below 1 million for the first time for years. This is partly due to the closure of many suspended cases. Suspended cases are commonly the result of failure to trace the NRP. (Was this a tidying up exercise to prepare for the start of the new scheme on 3rd March? Suspended cases would have been hard to handle as linked cases).

The proportion of benefits cases (PWCs on key benefits) has increased from nearly 37% to nearly 38%. (It isn't clear whether this is somehow linked to the above closures. In fact, the number of benefits cases dropped, but not in proportion).

There has been a small fall in the percentage of NRPs who are employed. (The percentage has been falling slightly each quarter for a year). This could also be phrased as for PWCs: the proportion of NRPs on benefits, like the proportion of PWCs on benefits, has increased. A large proportion of CSA cases comprise relatively poor people - often, the CSA simply moves bits of poverty around, and often the Treasury makes things even worse for a separated poor couple.

In about 3/4s of benefits cases, the assessment is less than £10. If this carries over to the new scheme, then because of the disregard, only 1/4 of benefits cases will yield any money for the Treasury. The rest will be compulsory cases, run at Treasury expense, with no Treasury saving. There is a strong correlation between low assessment & PWC on benefits. There are various possible reasons, including "they were poor before separation, and remain poor", or "low assessments provide little incentive for PWCs to get to work", etc. This indicates that the stereotypical "rich NRP, poor PWC" cases are not relatively common, and Treasury saving will never be a high proportion of maintenance.

Compliance tends to be somewhat lower for benefits cases compared with private cases. Whether judged by payment-percentages or case-percentages, full compliance has dropped significantly, partial compliance has increased, and nil compliance has remained about the same or increased. (Did the CSA become less effective for old cases in the run up to the start of the new scheme?)

The average assessments, both per case & per child, has fallen in number of £s to the levels of about 2 years ago in the case of FMAs, and more than that over all assessments. The effect in real terms is even more significant. The average assessment per child is now about the same as Child Benefit, which is about 1/5th of the cost of children.

The percentage of male PWCs has dropped from about 6% to about 5.7%. (It isn't clear whether this is somehow linked to the above closures. In fact, the number of both dropped, but not in proportion). This is much lower than in other countries such as the USA.

Child Support Agency Statistics

19th June

CSA publishes procedures used for calculating child support

This is a welcome addition to the CSA web site. It provides an insight into the way CSA staff implement the child support legislation. Being procedural-oriented, it appears to be more informative than the old Decision Maker's Guide.

The Technical Guide is also on-line as a hyper-linked guide.

Procedures used by staff to calculate child support
CSA Technical Guide

26th June

CSA removes procedures used for calculating child support from its web site

The "Procedures used by staff to calculate child support" has now disappeared from the CSA website. (See the entry below for the 19th June).

Previously, the "What's new" page of the CSA website for the new scheme read: "Procedures 18 June 2003 You can now see the procedures used by staff to calculate your child support". Now it reads: "Keyword search 18 June 2003 In response to customer feedback we are pleased to be able to offer a keyword search facility for the website".

On & after 18th June the "Site map" read: "... Glossary Procedures Welsh/Cymraeg ...". It now it says: "... Glossary Welsh/Cymraeg ...". So although the site claims to have last been updated on 18th June, in fact it was regressed some days after that.

Why was it thought necessary to withdraw these procedures? And why was it thought necessary to pretend they were never published in the first place?

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