Rules to change in CSA shake-up

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The Independent Online
A NEW system of child maintenance payments which sets lower levels for parents who split up before the Child Support Agency came into operation is being considered by the Government.

The head of the CSA, Ros Hepplewhite, quit on Friday after a non-stop barrage of criticism over the way the agency has pursued absent fathers.

A simpler method of working out what fathers should pay may be introduced in the autumn to counter claims that the agency is unfair.

The changes are proposed in a draft report which will be considered by the Social Security Select Committee after its second inquiry into the CSA, which has been blamed for the suicides of desperate fathers, and accused of causing hardship to second families and failing to improve the lot of lone parents and their children.

The new formula would be based on the Australian system which takes into account the incomes of both parents, minus certain expenses or 'exempt income,' multiplied by a percentage depending on the number of children.

The Australian system is not retrospective; it allows previous 'clean break settlements', such as property transfers or capital sums in lieu of maintenance, to stand.

Frank Field, Labour chairman of the committee, said: 'There should be a difference between people who were landed with an extra burden

because the government's

policy has changed and people who landed themselves in it knowing what the government's policy is.'

Opposition to the CSA from divorced fathers, ex-wives and new wives has led to protests, demonstrations, lobbying of MPs, and agency staff receiving death threats. The new head is Ann Chant, who ran the National Insurance Contributions Agency.

Formula for chaos, page 6