Letter: Women desert children too

"SUICIDE IS linked to severe depression, and areas of Britain with high unemployment, drug use and low incomes will be targeted" - referring to a new initiative by health ministers ("Doctors get help to spot suicidal young men", 21 March). Else- where, you report that the Child Support Agency is being given unprecedented powers to deduct child support payments via the tax system from pay packets ("Runaway dads face tax attack", 21 March) and Alistair Darling declares that "men have a responsibility that endures their entire life and the purpose of the overhaul of the CSA is to ensure that that duty is far more rigorously enforced".

More than 50 deaths - suicides of men and the murders of women and children - have already been linked to the unwelcome intervention of the CSA. Parents without care on strictly means-tested benefit have 10 per cent deducted from their payments, and many on low incomes will continue to be pushed below the mean-tested line with the introduction of the new proposed 15/20/25 per cent maintenance calculation formula.

According to Hansard, the Treasury took more than pounds 297m from CSA "clients" in 1995. Given that over four-fifths of CSA "maintenance" is collected from people on benefit or very low incomes, this swag total (well over pounds 1bn by now) is blatantly coming from the poorest communities suffering "unemployment ... and low incomes". Unacceptably, richer men enjoy a ceiling on the maximum amount of CSA maintenance they must pay. In contrast, the benefit regime as a whole, and the CSA in particular, makes life more intolerable with every "reform" forced upon the poorest.

RUSSELL CAVANAGH

Sheffield

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