Weblog archive for July 2005

1st July 2005

Biological fathers versus social fathers

Examples of illogical thinking and over-generalisations:

The notion that children born as a result of donated sperm will be somehow deprived or emotionally stunted by not knowing their genetic father is one that emanates, not from children of sperm donors or from the donors themselves, but from the government and the committee that regulates fertility treatment, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). 

Jennie Bristow

Not true. It emanates from children themselves! See views of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and increasingly the UK's Family Courts.

Child Support Analysis

Likewise, the notion that fathers must move hell and high water to prove their genetic relationship to estranged offspring is an individualised perspective on fatherhood, which implies that a positive paternity test can somehow have a decisive influence upon a man's sense of self - regardless of the role that he might have played, or is to play, in the child's life, and regardless of the damage that is often done by pulling one's private affairs through the science labs and the courts. 

Jennie Bristow

It is simply what many men feel, and will continue to feel . Who can say they are wrong? It matters to some men, and it matters to some children, and will continue to do so. The courts can be avoided by using "motherless tests", of course.

Child Support Analysis

Denied, deceived, humiliated, cheated and used: paternity 'defrauded' dads are poster-children for how the Fathers' Rights Movement sees men in the post-patriarchal world. They are the cause célèbre for men who feel disempowered by current social and legal norms and practice concerning marriage, divorce, sex and reproduction, and want to reassert control. 

Dr Leslie Cannold

Calm down! It is obvious that some men feel aggrieved paying for children that they didn't want, didn't play any part in bringing into the world, and have no connection with other than having a wallet.

Child Support Analysis

Cases of misattributed biological paternity - where a man is shown to be biologically unrelated to the child he parents - are an artefact of DNA testing and the new legal arrangements that drive and justify it. 

Dr Leslie Cannold

They are not an artefact. They are evidence of the fact that the wife had an affair, became pregnant, and hid the facts from the husband and probably the child and just about everyone else. (Or is "artefact" a new word for "let's have sex"?)

Child Support Analysis

Mothers sometimes test in the hope that a 'negative' result will prevent their ex-partners having further contact with the child. 

Dr Leslie Cannold

This is why it should be social parentage, not just biological parentage, that determines share parenting after separation.

Child Support Analysis

First the facts. While academics and Fathers' Rights activists repeatedly cite figures of between one in ten and one in four children affected, such claims lack a reliable evidential basis. 

Dr Leslie Cannold

They simply represent perhaps 50 surveys over nearly 50 years. What other reliable evidential basis is there? And they are also pretty irrelevant when determining policy! Paternity tests should be freely available, then it won't matter what the figures are.

Child Support Analysis

But if only one per cent of women are 'guilty' of paternity fraud, the case for change is seriously undermined. 

Dr Leslie Cannold

If the rate of misattributed paternity is indeed 1%, then paternity testing is not a threat. The result of a test will nearly always be "you are the father", and the man now has peace of mind. That is surely worth having, compared with causing men to live with unwarranted suspicions, which can't be good for the relationship or the children. Paternity tests should be freely available for the benefit of children.

Child Support Analysis

Women's behaviour in cases of misattributed paternity clearly suggests that the man they hope is the biological, and want to be the social, father of their child is their partner, not their ex, one-night stand or even lover. 

Dr Leslie Cannold

Rubbish! Many want to hide the fact that they had an affair, became pregnant, and hid the facts from the husband and probably the child and just about everyone else. Those don't want anything to get in the way of being able claim child support!

Child Support Analysis

The solution seems clear: support laws need to be rewritten to allocate parental rights and responsibilities to men on the basis of their paternal commitment and behaviour, not pedigree. 

Dr Leslie Cannold

Rubbish! It is vital that the world moves the other way, at least where child support responsibility is concerned. There is some evidence that strongly-enforced child support encourages people, (especially men), to avoid bringing a child into the world unless they want to support it. It is a matter of being responsible for one's actions. Once the next generation of male contraceptives becomes available, men should be encouraged to use them. We don't want a society where men are discouraged from being step-fathers because of a possibility that spending time bringing up a child would lead, after separation, not to spending more time bringing up the child, but instead paying for someone else to.

Child Support Analysis

Many people express views on this topic. Few present a coherent comprehensive view that takes into account modern aspects of child support, parental rights and responsibilities, the medical implications of the Human Genome project, human rights as seen by the United Nations and other major entities, and the clear drives of many adults and children concerning parentage.

Many views appear, instead, to be the output of "single issue" attitudes. One group may be concerned with "paternity fraud", and being duped into paying child support. Another group may be overly protective towards mothers who "played away" and had children that they have since been lying about. Politicians may be focused on the centuries-old tactic of "find the nearest man with a wallet". These views often get dressed up and over-generalised via post-hoc rationalisation.

This blog attempts to identify the complexity of this topic. An observation is just how frequently politicians, government departments, and lobby groups and other special interest groups, ascribe views and motives to whole classes of people without bothering to listen to what they are saying.

  1. Both of these types of parentage are important, of course. In spite of the title of this blog, it normally isn't a matter of one or the other, but of some combination. However, for some situations biological parentage is more important, while sometimes social parentage is more important.
  2. An example where biological parentage is more important is child support. A child exists, and consumes resources, because of what two people did and didn't do. The need for those people to be responsible for providing the resources needed by the child isn't a punishment. It is a matter of being responsible for one's actions. There is some evidence that strongly-enforced child support encourages people, (especially men), to avoid bringing a child into the world unless they want to support it. Once the next generation of male contraceptives becomes available, men should be encouraged to use them. In spite of having an incompetent child support system, the UK has one of the world's most enlightened positions about the relationship between biological parentage and child support.
  3. An example where social parentage is more important is true parental responsibility. Social parenting of someone else's child before separation plausibly sets a precedent for shared parenting after separation. Many people wrongly claim that social parenting should lead to paying child support after separation. This is illogical, sends the wrong message, and in fact is an example of "find the nearest man with a wallet". We don't want a society where men are discouraged from being step-fathers because of a possibility that spending time bringing up a child would lead, after separation, not to spending more time bringing up the child, but instead paying for someone else to. Social parenting is to be encouraged, not discouraged. Give the man a medal, not a child support order!
  4. A thought experiment: A wife has an affair and becomes pregnant. The husband divorces her because of this. She and the child move in with the biological father. The ex-husband is deemed responsible for paying child support to her, because of "presumed parentage". (Although there are frequent claims for such cases, I haven't identified a full example. However, examples of parts of this scenario occur). The result of this scenario is grotesque injustice. Many people cite the long history of the "presumed parentage" principle as though that justifies it. No! It is simply that, before reliable paternity testing, there wasn't a good alternative. Had paternity testing been available at the time of the Poor Laws, the "presumed parentage" principle may never have been considered. And we would probably have far fewer children who are not wanted by both biological parents.
  5. Men, like the males of many species, have evolved strong drives to ensure that they are bringing up their own biological children, not someone else's. We shouldn't be surprised at the importance that many men place on knowledge of biological parentage, nor should we expect to be able to suppress this drive. It can't be legislated away. We should actually be surprised at the willingness of so many men to help bring up other men's children, and this should be encouraged.
  6. Many children, too, have strong drives to know their biological background. (But not all!) Many adopted children want to know who their biological parents were. Many children born from gamete donation, (eggs, sperm), want to be able to trace the donors. Their typical attitude appears to be that this completes their understanding of who they are. They typically do not do this at the expense of their adoptive or social parents, (although some of these are uncomfortable with the quest). This need is recognised by the United Nations, by the Council of Europe, and increasingly by the UK's Family Courts. This, too, won't go away.
  7. In fact, this is becoming more important medically. Diagnosis and treatment according to genetic inheritance will continue to grow in importance. Ideally, this wouldn't need identification of one's biological relationships, just detailed analysis of one's genes. But, at the moment, knowledge of the relationships helps. And, once a genetic problem has been identified, it may become important to identify others with the same genetic inheritance, via biological relationships. It can really matter who your biological, rather than social, relationships are!
  8. Many people feel disquiet about paternity tests. Some want to suppress them, or restrict access to them. This is especially true of "motherless tests", where only the man and the child is tested. But paternity tests are not the only way that biological parentage, or misattributed paternity, is recognised. One of the most common topics, resulting from a Google search of "misattributed paternity", is the risk that modern medical diagnosis will accidentally reveal misattributed paternity. It causes ethical dilemmas. It isn't paternity testing that is the problem - it is misattributed paternity. If it could be dramatically reduced, many other problems would go away.
  9. What about women? Their views don't appear to be represented above. Unfortunately, the views of many women, but certainly not all, are represented above! There appears to be little condemnation, among groups representing women, for bringing other men's children into a relationship, or for paternity fraud. The "Man not included" service is focused on the desires of some women to have children who will never be able to trace their biological fathers.

This represents only a small part of the topic. There is vastly more elsewhere on this web site.

2nd July 2005

Did the CSA drive this man to suicide?

"A DESPERATE father was driven to suicide by the demands of the Child Support Agency, an inquest was told". (See links below).

Was he? This sensitive topic has been analysed on this web site. Here is a best guess:

  • The CSA did not simply step into this man's life and turn him from a normal coping person into a suicide. Not within 3 years.
  • But the CSA often doesn't step into the life of a normal coping person. It steps into the life of a person whose life and relationships have been disrupted; who may have lost contact with a child who may be one of the people that person cares most about; who may have lost the family home and be having to find alternatives; and who may now have other commitments, such as children within a new relationship.
  • An agency that steps into people's lives at such times needs to be sensitive to these issues, and have staff with training and experience to communicate with those people. The CSA is not such as agency! Even if it never made mistakes, it is constrained by inflexible rules. It is mostly staffed by relatively low-paid people who typically do not have the life-experience and skills to handle cases comprising two people who are probably in conflict.
  • But, of course, the CSA does make mistakes! Lots of them. It is the most administratively incompetent government agency within memory. Its computer systems have become notorious as the examples that all other potential government IT projects are compared with, and computer problems were cited in these articles. Complaints about the CSA consume more time of MPs than complaints about any other government department.
  • The CSA can present a face of implacable, relentless, uncaring, incompetence. One of the most intelligent and resilient people I know, a single mother, spent 6 years or more trying to get satisfaction from the CSA. She was successful with the Independent Case Examiner, and with the Parliamentary Ombudsman. But she never found a way of getting the CSA to behave in its defined way, and eventually gave up, having accumulated a number of box-files of fruitless correspondence. As a Parent With Care, she could simply give up. A Non-Resident Parent doesn't have that option.
  • Politicians claim that the CSA formula leaves the NRP with most of his (normally "his") income. Over a long enough period, that is true. But in the short term, things can go wrong. And trying to work harder with longer hours in order to have more take-home pay often doesn't work. Tax, NI, and child support, can all increase at such a rate that little of the extra gross earnings are left. This often leaves a sense of "why bother any more?" Politicians typically do not understand the mathematics behind this.

Obviously, I don't know why this man committed suicide. The newspaper articles inevitably publish a superficial and probably biased view, because we hear from those close to the person. But it would not surprise me if the CSA acted as "the final straw".

3rd July 2005

Live 8, condoms, and the Catholic Church

He represents the hardline, fundamentalist strand of Catholicism; opposing condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, rejecting women's rights, denouncing fertility treatment for childless couples, and endorsing state-sanctioned discrimination against gay people. 

Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

But the Pope ... has given no indication that he intends to soften the Vatican's pro-life position one iota, even in Africa, where the World Health Organization says the use of condoms is the most effective means of halting the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. 

Agence France Presse

Live 8 was a reminder of previous topics in this blog: the harm of the Catholic Church's attitude towards the use of condoms, and the need for change. Even some in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church know the current policy is wrong. Apparently, many at ground level ignore the policy. Unfortunately, the new Pope, when he was "Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", took at least as a hard a line as Pope John Paul II.

Previous blog topics here included: "Catholic Church and bizarre statements about contraception"; "Catholic Church's contraceptive policies encourage the spread of AIDS"; "Rebel priests tell Catholics - take the pill"; and "Some sense from a senior Catholic on condoms". They provide various links, which won't be repeated here.

A Google search will show plenty of other material condemning the Catholic Church's attitude, especially in the context of Live 8. Child Support Analysis holds that the Catholic Church's policy about contraception in general is harmful, and in the context of AIDS, especially in Africa, is lethal. It is time for change, even it has to be in the form of widespread ignoring of the policy.

4th July 2005

Updated "survey of articles" about misattributed paternity

... it suggests relatively low rates of misattributed paternity in Western countries, with figures realistically being between 1% and 3%... The best available data on actual paternity tests performed comes from laboratories in the US where results ... revealed that 28% were not the biological fathers. 

Professor Michael Gilding

The results show that men with high paternity confidence have very low rates of nonpaternity (median = 1.9%), while men with low paternity confidence have much higher levels of nonpaternity (median = 29.8%). 

Kermyt G. Anderson, Ph.D.

Could this be a heated agreement?

Professor Michael Gilding, of Australia's Swinburne University of Technology, recently published a paper asserting that "rampant paternity fraud is an urban myth". Summaries of his position have been published by Swinburne. His statements appear likely to create a false impression of their own. They can be read as trying to counter an over-extreme position with a contrary over-extreme position. He says:

"When we examined the most recent evidence ... on the whole it suggests relatively low rates of misattributed paternity in Western countries, with figures realistically being between 1% and 3%... The best available data on actual paternity tests performed comes from laboratories in the US where results ... revealed that 28% were not the biological fathers. Yet the people who actually have tests done are a very distinct group in the population with most cause to question biological paternity.... Given that the non-paternity rate is less than 30% among those with most cause to question biological paternity, the rate is obviously a lot lower for the whole population".

Whether or not that "1% and 3%" is accurate, so what? What policy area is impacted by this figure? If a government were considering mandatory paternity testing in all cases at birth, this figure would be important. But no Western government is considering this!

That "28%" is much more relevant, and doesn't deserve to be dismissed in that way. Most, perhaps all, Western governments consider dysfunctional and broken families, and the consequences of these, to be important policy areas. How should they sort out child support responsibilities? How should they sort out child custody? Would easy access to "secret" paternity tests, on balance, improve outcomes for children, or hasten the disintegration of conventional family life?

Governments should probably stay clear of people conforming to the "1% and 3%" rate, because that group appears to be working OK. But there are strong arguments that the "28%" group needs attention. Then it becomes significant whether it really is "28%"! What would happen if child support responsibility were based solely on paternity tests? Or never on paternity tests?

It would certainly be wrong if, as Michael Gilding claims, "the alienated fantasies of fathers' rights activists, the commercial interests of the paternity testing industry and the ideology of sociobiologists" promote a view that the general rate of misattributed paternity is 10% to 30%. But it makes sense for "fathers' rights activists" to use the figures applicable to "a very distinct group in the population with most cause to question biological paternity" (his words). As Kermyt G. Anderson says in his paper: "The results show that men with high paternity confidence have very low rates of nonpaternity (median = 1.9%), while men with low paternity confidence have much higher levels of nonpaternity (median = 29.8%)". When debating access to paternity tests, which are the relevant figures from either author?

Child Support Analysis has just published 2 pages here. One is an update to a page that has often been quoted in forums and other web sites. The other is a new page. Each table on each page has a column showing the suggested rate of misattributed paternity from that article.

  • "Misattributed paternity and paternity fraud" is the updated page. First, it identifies more than 15 reports from paternity testing services, over 8 years or so. (Rates range from about 10% to 33%). Second, it identifies about 60-65 other articles and papers that indicate rates of misattributed paternity, over nearly 50 years. (Rates range from about 0.03% to 30%). Both of these sets span the world.
  • "The evidence of Kermyt G. Anderson" is the new page. This is based solely on a paper still under development by Kermyt G. Anderson. It identifies about 70 papers, over more than 50 years. There is overlap with the above page. Kermyt G. Anderson not only separates out the rates from paternity testing services, but also distinguishes between people with high confidence in their paternity, and others. Cases where men have high confidence in paternity tend to have lower rates, comparable with the numbers quoted by Michael Gilding, (with one or two higher numbers). Results from paternity testing services are much higher, from a little over 15% to over 30%. The other cases are intermediate, but higher than the rates quoted by Michael Gilding.

Material from Professor Michael Gilding, of Australia's Swinburne University of Technology:

Child Support Analysis material:

5th July 2005

Don't believe the "paternity fraud is an urban myth" nonsense!

We may be seeing a new urban myth: a myth that Professor Michael Gilding said "paternity fraud is an urban myth"!

In his 12-page ($16) paper, "Rampant Misattributed Paternity: the Creation of an Urban Myth", Michael Gilding was primarily addressing the non-judgemental subject of "misattributed paternity", over the population as a whole. In a modern "Western" country, for example Australia, what proportion of all children have a biological father other than the man who thinks he is the biological father? He estimates a range of 1% to 3%. Although he appears to be rather selective in his sources, and doesn't adequately refute some higher values, there is support for this range elsewhere, including this web site, so it could be OK.

But this study got reported as something totally different: "Paternity fraud is an urban myth"! "Paternity fraud" comprises only a subset of "misattributed paternity", and refers to cases where the man is deceived in order to obtain money from him, for example via the child support system. Nothing in Michael Gilding's paper demonstrates that such deceit occurs in less than (say) 10% or even 20% of children where fraud could be used. The "1% to 3%" refers mainly to children other than those where there is "most cause to question biological paternity".

Part of the error arises from the free pages that Australia's Swinburne University of Technology published to advertise the full paper. They say:

"Rampant paternity fraud an 'urban myth'
.... When we examined the most recent evidence, based upon medical records, sex surveys, DNA testing laboratories and genetic studies, on the whole it suggests relatively low rates of misattributed paternity in Western countries, with figures realistically being between one percent and 3 per cent".

It appears that Swinburne itself originated the erroneous heading of "paternity fraud ... urban myth ". The original paper mentioned "paternity fraud" a couple of times, but did not quantify it. Furthermore, Swinburne's reference to "DNA testing laboratories" will mislead the reader to believe that paternity testing contributed to the conclusion about "1% to 3%". Yet the (approximate) figures quoted in the paper resulting from paternity testing were: 28% in the USA; 20% for full tests in Australia; and 10% for motherless tests in Australia. All that can really be said about the general population is that the numbers are probably smaller than these.

Then newspapers made the worst error of all, saying:

"Professor of Sociology at Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology, Michael Gilding, said figures suggesting that up to 30 per cent of paternity tests showed that the nominated father was not the parent of the child in question were based on unreliable sources or studies".

Not true! Those figures for paternity test results of 10%, 20%, and 28%, are probably reliable numbers - for their particular population. There is no reason to believe that paternity testing services are lying about what proportion of their tests reveal non-paternity. Results from paternity testing services, worldwide, appear always to show figures of at least 10%, and often 20% or more. But they are simply not discussing the population that Michael Gilding is mainly concerned with - the general population, the overwhelming majority of whom haven't had a paternity test.

Who is at fault for starting this new urban myth that "paternity fraud is an urban myth"? It didn't start in Michael Gilding's original paper, but unfortunately most people who see this news will not check what that paper says! How much did Swinburne and the media base what they wrote on discussions with Michael Gilding, and how much on misreading of the original paper? Is it simply that it's a much more exciting headline to say "paternity fraud is an urban myth" than to say "rampant misattributed paternity is an urban myth"?

Child Support Analysis will track this new urban myth!

6th July 2005

Independent Case Examiner's Annual Report is now available to read online

This is not a surprise!

It is disappointing that the number of complaints from clients has increased over the past year. 

Stephen Geraghty, Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency

I am grateful to the Independent Case Examiner for her report. It highlights the amount of work the Agency still needs to do to improve its relationship with its clients. 

Work and Pensions Minister Lord Hunt

Complaints referred to me illustrate that too many parents' experience is sadly ineffectual. 

Jodi Berg, The Independent Case Examiner

From The Independent Case Examiner’s Office:

"This has been a stormy year for the Child Support Agency. It has long been accepted that the old child support scheme needed revision. Too often the combination of complex legislation and poor administrative process left people dissatisfied. The introduction of the Child Support Reforms promised much. Simpler legislation, slick processes and customer focussed services. Whilst there have been achievements, the problems faced by the Agency have been of such magnitude that two years after the introduction of the Reforms there is still no published date for the conversion of old scheme cases onto new rules.

"Although I acknowledge the many difficulties encountered with its new computer system, in my view the Agency has not done enough to place parents at the heart of its activities. Consequently, in cases administered under both the old and new schemes, many customers have faced similar problems of delay, negligence and poor process. Against this backdrop, unsurprisingly referrals to my office continued to rise for the second year in a row, to just under 3,000. In about half of the cases we accepted, we were able to negotiate a satisfactory settlement and I am grateful to the Agency staff who facilitated this. In cases where this was not possible, I upheld the great majority of complaints."

7th July 2005

"ICE" reports on the Northern Ireland CSA too

In my constituency lots of people are frustrated that the CSA is not helping them or responding in the way it should. It's not the fault of the front line staff, who do their best - but they are hampered and struggling with a system not fit for its purpose. 

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds

Northern Ireland has its own CSA. It works to (nearly) the same law, and also helps out the Great Britain CSA. It is examined by the Independent Case Examiner in a similar way.

"Independent Case Examiner (ICE) Jodi Berg ... said that the CSA in Northern Ireland had suffered the effects of many of the very serious problems the Agency has faced as a whole. But it had managed to handle problems faced by customers better than other areas of the UK.

"However, the ICE commented that the Agency "does not place parents at the heart of its activities" and called for a radical rethink of service provision.... But she did praise the efforts of agency staff.

"In November, the head of the Child Support Agency in Northern Ireland apologised to its customers. Chief executive Barney McGahan admitted in a Belfast Telegraph interview that one in three applications received by the CSA under the new scheme had still to be settled."

9th July 2005

Belated news - birthday honours

Officer of the Order of the British Empire:

Brenda, Mrs GREEN - Compliance Manager, Child Support Agency. (Stourbridge, West Midlands)

Members of the Order of the British Empire:

Christine Norma, Mrs RANKIN - Professional Executive Secretary, Child Support Agency. For services to Charity. (Torpoint, Cornwall)

Marian, Mrs RHODES - Higher Executive Officer, Child Support Agency. (Clitheroe, Lancashire)

11th July 2005

Paternity testing news in China

Fortunately, only 20 per cent of the fathers have been excluded as the biological father of the child. 

Li Li, Deputy director of The Laboratory of Forensic Biology

However, according to the center, no more than 20 percent of the children were proved to be illegitimate. 

Shanghai Blood Center

The reality is, in the vast majority of cases the results only prove that the child is one's own flesh and blood. Shanghai's Hematology Center has found that no more than 20% of those tested are not the father's own offspring, while the technical section of Heilongjiang Province's Public Security Bureau has found, in its hereditary DNA labs, that roughly 10 percent of sons are illegitimate. 

20 per cent of children had been found not to be the biological offspring of their supposed fathers. 

Tao Chunfang, vice-president of the Shanghai Marriage and Family Research Union

Experts say comedies and tragedies happen every day at paternity test centres across the country, such as a heart-broken wife bursting into tears while her husband was recognized as the father of an extra-martial child, or a husband getting angry because of his wife's infidelity. 

People's Hospital in Shenzhen, a city neighbouring Hong Kong

It appears to be happening all over the world! And that figure of 20%, misleading as it is, keeps appearing.

"In most of those cases, the father took the child for paternity testing without the mother present. "If the wife refuses to take the paternity test, she could have some secrets," said Li Li, Deputy director of The Laboratory of Forensic Biology. Statistics show that 37 per cent of the fathers have been excluded as the biological fathers if the wives have refused to submit test samples. However, the rate drops to 14 per cent if the wife agrees to take the test."

"According to one report, an investigation found that in 1989 only 15 percent of China's youth population had engaged in pre-marital sex, while today that figure is now at 60 percent. Tao Chunfang, Vice President of the China Family Marriage Research Association, has remarked, "When pre-marital sex has gotten that widespread, can people put their trust in each other after marrying?""

And it may be getting worse! At least until the next generation of male contraceptives helps to hide the naughtiness.

Chinese Medical Journal: "Alleged fathers who strongly suspect that they are not the biological father tend to apply for in-person testing with the suitability of the test report for use in a legal setting, whilst alleged fathers who are merely satisfying a nagging doubt over paternity, opt first for the anonymous test. That some 40% of these men are subsequently excluded from paternity may indicate the presence of a large population of children in Hong Kong whose parentage is in doubt"

20th July 2005

CSA annual report and accounts for 2004/2005 is available from today

This report makes it clear that the Agency is still facing significant challenges since the introduction of child support reforms in March 2003. My own experience in the first few months since my appointment as Chief Executive on 4 April 2005 confirms those challenges....

The Agency's senior management team is working to develop a clear strategic plan for the next three years which will seek to address the problems this report highlights in a properly co-ordinated way. Our strategy will have our clients at its heart, focusing on their needs and setting out how we intend to provide them with a quality, sensitive and efficient service through incremental improvement.

We do not underestimate the challenges we face to deliver an excellent child support service; but we are confident that with a clear strategy concentrating on the needs of our clients and incorporating achievable plans for improvements in our service delivery and our supporting computer system, we will achieve our goal. 

Stephen Geraghty, Chief Executive, CSA

The CSA's caseload is probably larger than it has ever been:

At the end of March 2005 the Agency's total caseload (cases which are 'open' at any stage in the process) for both new and old schemes was around 1.4 million:
- 452,000 were new scheme cases operating on the new computer system (including 10,000 cases that are being progressed clerically because they were not progressable on the system);
- 714,000 were old scheme cases operating on the old computer system; and
- 250,000 were old scheme cases operating on the new computer system (these cases having migrated from the old computer system because they are linked in some way to a new application).

The CSA is still struggling (and failing) to achieve accuracy and other targets:

Case Compliance: Overall Agency performance ended the year at 70 per cent. For old scheme cases we ended the year at 72 per cent. For new scheme cases we ended the year at 66 per cent against a target of 78 per cent.

Cash Compliance: Overall Agency performance ended the year at 70 per cent. For old scheme cases we ended the year at 73 per cent. For new scheme cases we ended the year at 61 per cent against a target of 75 per cent.

Accuracy: For old scheme cases we achieved an accuracy rate of 78 per cent. An accuracy rate of 75 per cent against a target of 90 per cent was achieved on new scheme cases.

(Many "out turns versus targets" could not be measured because of problems with the new computer system!)

Consider the cost per case when deciding whether the CSA is reducing the UK's benefits expenditure. Consider also the so-called Child Maintenance Premium, which reduces the benefits savings for new scheme cases. The first £196 + £520 per year of child support paid in benefits cases doesn't reduce benefits expenditure.

We achieved an administration staff cost per live and assessed case of £196 against a target of £202.

Some things appear to have improved significantly relatively, such as Enforcement:

Court hearings: % increases in since last year: Liability orders 45.1%; 3rd party debt orders 12.8%; charging orders applied for 17.9%; commital initial hearings 86.4%.

5,047 cases were referred for bailiff action, resulting in collections of almost £3 million, compared to 3,063 producing £1.5 million in 2003-04;
- 212 suspended committal sentences, compared to 95 in 2003-04;
- 8 actual committal sentences, compared to 8 in 2003-04;
- 28 suspended driving licence sentences, compared to 9 in 2003-04;
- 5 actual driving licence sentences, compared to 1 in 2003-04; and
- almost £8 million collected by enforcement teams. There is no comparative data for 2003-04.

As usual, the accounts showed both over-payments and under-payments. There are a number of qualifications from the auditor.

21st July 2005

Commentaries on some essays on paternity, etc

The urban myth of high non-paternity rates is driven by the alienated fantasies of fathers' rights activists, the commercial interests of the paternity testing industry, and the ideology of sociobiology, circulated through the Internet and the media. 

Professor Michael Gilding

There is a good reason that the tests should not be conducted without the knowledge of the mother.... The fact that all parties must be informed of the tests would promote the principle of collaborative parenting and and minimise the potential for harm. 

Professor Michael Gilding

A woman's choice of a man to parent her child – whether made in conditions of biological uncertainty or not – is never an insult, but an expression of love and respect.... Men who fail to understand this, and laws that don't reflect it, completely miss the point. 

Dr Leslie Cannold

The solution seems clear: support laws need to be rewritten to allocate parental rights and responsibilities to men on the basis of their paternal commitment and behaviour, not pedigree. 

Dr Leslie Cannold

All that's needed is a commitment from society to share the cost with mothers of raising children when there's no real dad around. 

Dr Leslie Cannold

Two academics in Australia have recently written articles and papers about "paternity testing" and "what is a father?"

These articles identify some important matters, and make some assertions and proposals that need to be challenged. Therefore, five new pages have been published on this website, each giving a commentary on one of those articles. In the opinion of Child Support Analysis, each article has significant conceptual flaws and omissions, and the result is that they present a narrow and skewed picture of the problems and possible solutions.

Each page begins with some preliminary comments from Child Support Analysis. These cover:
"The motives for using "only man and child" paternity tests";
"What is "paternity fraud", and how common is it?";
"Ethics";
"Human nature";
"Types of father";
"Types of financial support for children";
"Presumption of paternity";
etc.

The five commentaries on this website:

26th July 2005

CSA web site overtaken for accessibility

As this Blog reported on 13th September 2004, the CSA web site was judged the government's most accessible web site by the SiteMorse(TM) scoring method. It has now been overtaken by The Health Care Commission.

This probably means that the latter got better, not that the CSA web site got worse. If so, that is good, because steady improvement in accessibility for disabled people is needed. No sites are perfect (including this Child Support Analysis site!)

29th July 2005

Even more belated news - last New Year Honours!

Child Support Analysis tries to record staff from the Child Support Agency who have received honours. On 9th July those in the (June) Birthday Honours were identified. This catches up with the rest of those from the New Year Honours. (Two of these have already been mentioned).

Companion of the Order of the Bath:

Douglas Armitage SMITH, Chief Executive, Child Support Agency.

Members of the Order of the British Empire:

David CUNNINGHAM, Senior Executive Officer, Child Support Agency.

Miss Alison MORTIMER, Administrative Officer, Child Support Agency.

Pamela, Mrs PEARCE, Higher Executive Officer, Child Support Agency.

31st July 2005

Official: this web site is "fairly balanced, if somewhat cynical"!

w4mp is a web site called "Working for an MP - The site for everyone working for an MP". It has a section called "The Child Support Agency: an insider's analysis of the system". That page finishes:

For a fairly balanced, if somewhat cynical, look at child support including the other side of the story read Barry Pearson's:

http://www.childsupportanalysis.co.uk/information_and_explanation/basics/introduction_summary.htm

Child Support Analysis has now updated that page. Can't have people who work for MPs using out of date information, can we?

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