Head of CSA decides to call it a day

The Chief Executive of the controversial Child Support Agency is to leave after little more than two years in the job, it was announced yesterday.

Ann Chant, 51, credited with turning the agency round after its disastrous launch three years ago, is to head the Opportunity 2000 campaign to increase the number of women in senior management. Her predecessor, Ros Hepplewhite, resigned after 18 turbulent months in the job, apologising for "unacceptable standards", and saying she had had enough.

Liz Lynne, Liberal Democrat social-security spokeswoman, said: "In such a short period of time, to lose one chief executive is unfortunate, but to lose two is just careless." The Liberal Democrats have been uncompromising in opposing the CSA's "authoritarian" principle.

In a sign that Miss Chant's departure had taken the Government by surprise, the announcement said arrangements for appointing a successor would be made "shortly". Andrew Mitchell, the minister responsible for the agency, praised Miss Chant as "first rate", and Malcolm Wicks for Labour, which has toned down criticism of the agency recently, said: "Things were beginning to move in the right direction ... She provided strong leadership to the CSA after an extremely poor start and I am therefore concerned about the leadership of the agency at this sensitive time."

Miss Chant said: "My time at the CSA has often been hectic and certainly challenging but I am pleased that I will be leaving my successor an agency which has a steadily improving performance and excellent staff and managers in place to ensure the good record continues."

The agency was launched to trace absent fathers and extract child maintenance payments from them according to an "automatic" scale which replaced individual court orders.

But last week MPs accused ministers and Miss Chant of continued complacency. An all-party committee said that serious mistakes continued to be made and that it was "not appropriate" for Miss Chant to try to minimise them.

The CSA's watchdog, the Ombudsman, Sir William Reid, also expressed "puzzlement" that the agency was not making better progress, given all the money poured into it.

In its early months the agency was plagued by errors and ran into fierce protest from absent fathers, some of whom were outraged to be faced with demands that they face up to their responsibilities, but many of whom had justified complaints about mistakes or rigidities in the formulae for calculating payments.

Miss Chant has overseen a dramatic reduction in the agency's error rate. But Frank Field, Labour chairman of the cross-party Commons social security committee, has criticised the agency for effectively granting an amnesty to about 300,000 people who have failed to reply to letters.

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Company decides to go for simply scary after criticising other sites for 'creepy and targeted' advertising

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

***Sports Graduate***

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: This role has arisen due to inc...

Business StudiesTeacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Bu...

***Are you a Support Worker? or a Youth Worker? ***

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The RoleDue to demand we are cu...

**SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past