The real story behind the claims of the CSA

The agency might be working better but the returns are still small

The Government's latest figures on the performance of the Child Support Agency were greeted with less than enthusiasm by the agency's critics yesterday.

The social security minister, Andrew Mitchell, announced improvements in the CSA's efficiency ratings: 80 per cent of assessments paid by the agency were correct to the last penny; 98 per cent of payments received from absent parents were passed on to the parent with care within 10 days; and the CSA issued 25,000 deduction of earnings orders.

The key figure is the sum of money actually collected, which shows a continuing slight improvement. The minister announced that the pounds 183m collected or arranged by the agency in the first six months of the year was pounds 10m more than was collected during the previous six months.

Malcolm Wicks, Labour's social security spokesman with responsibility for child-support policy, said: "These figures camouflage the overall failure of child-support policy.

"Today only a small minority of children in lone-parent families receive maintenance. Of course we welcome improvements in the CSA's performance, but it is from a pitifully low base. According to the CSA's own survey, 78 per cent of single parents received no child maintenance in 1994-95."

Richard Oppenheim of the Network Against the CSA, who has monitored the statistics closely from the beginning, said that the figures, though an improvement, were still no better than the amount of maintenance that used to be collected from absent parents (usually fathers) under the old system before the CSA was ever set up.

"About one-third of fathers are paying more than under the old system, about one-third are paying less and about one-third are paying the same," he said yesterday.

While it was broadly agreed yesterday that the CSA's systems are now working better, critics hastened to point out that these figures were largely a distraction from the underlying small returns from the agency.

Of all those fathers whom the agency has correctly assessed as due to pay, only 50 per cent are actually handing over the money. Of those who have been issued with interim assessments because they have failed to furnish full details of their incomes, 94 per cent are refusing to pay anything at all, according the latest DSS quarterly statistics.

The latest government figures disguise the continuing mass resistance by fathers to pay the CSA, and the agency's difficulty in enforcing its assessments, even when they are correctly drawn up.

At one end of the social scale are large numbers of well-off self-employed fathers whose accounts are complex and who find it easy to hide their true incomes. The CSA has no legal access to Inland Revenue tax returns, so it has no way to check incomes as declared to them.

At the other end of the scale, 75 per cent of the absent fathers are from the social classes C2, D and E, and 65 per cent of them have no qualifications. Many are low earners in insecure jobs, moving in and out of work. Assessments are often out of date, as people's circumstances change.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee