CSA 'no use' in 60% of cases

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MORE than two-thirds of cases handled by the Child Support Agency result in no payment being made to care for children, according to official figures, writes A further seven per cent of the CSA's huge workload brings in less than pounds 2.30 a week from an absent parent to help support a child - in some cases as little as 1p.The largest number of awards are for less than pounds 5 a week.

The figures, collated by the Liberal Democrats from an analysis of parliamentary answers and agency statistics, disclose that more than a quarter of cases are dropped without any action being taken or reason given, while more than one in five are abandonded "with good cause", such as a threat of domestic violence.

More than one in 10 cases are dropped because the parent has ceased to claim child support.This is often because the the mother has found a job, not because of CSA action.

Liz Lynne, Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on social security, said: "The CSA costs more than pounds 192m a year to run, but for this huge cost it is collecting nothing or just peanuts for the majority of parents and children it is meant to help." Ms Lynne called for the CSA to be scrapped. Ministers could only defend it by "using the most dodgy accounting methods", she said.

A spokeswoman for the CSA said the agency cleared 568,100 cases in 1994-95, and collected pounds 76m on behalf of children. Payment of a further pounds 111m between parents was "arranged". By far the biggest beneficiary, however, was the Treasury. The CSA secured benefit savings of pounds 479m.

Andrew Mitchell, DSS minister responsible for the agency,said: "The purpose of the CSA is to hold the ring between the taxpayer, the mother and the father. After an atrocious start, it is making considerable progress."