Agency lifts burden for lone mother: Thousands protested against the Child Support Agency yesterday, but others have benefited from its work. Mary Braid reports

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The Independent Online
THE Child Support Agency has already transformed life for Kate Lister, 28, and her two children, Oliver, nine, and Amy, six.

'I got nowhere with the courts,' said Ms Lister, who lives in Berkshire. She split up with her husband when she was pregnant with Amy. 'They made four attachment-of-earnings orders and he just kept changing his job to avoid them. Getting a settlement took so long that eventually I qualified for legal aid. At the end, I was still getting peanuts.'

Ms Lister claims that her ex-husband, who has since married a woman with four children of her own and fathered her fifth, deliberately ran up debts before court hearings so he could argue that he had little or no money for maintenance.

The CSA formula for maintenance levels does not take such debts into consideration.

'The agency has been fairer to me and my children. Children have to come before a new car or a holiday abroad. Men have to realise this.'

Because she was on benefits, Ms Lister's case has already been reviewed by the agency. It raised her maintenance from pounds 20 to pounds 78 a week. She has managed to come off benefits and is now working part-time.

'I am only a little bit better off financially, but my life has been transformed. At least now I am not having to go to the headmaster every time there is a school trip, to say I cannot afford it. And I am no longer a burden on the taxpayer.'

(Photograph omitted)