Child agency to canvass clients' views: Survey of carers and absent parents follows growing number of complaints

THE Government's Child Support Agency, which has been under fire from divorced and separated fathers facing huge increases in maintenance payments after new assessments from the agency, has commissioned Mori to conduct a 'client satisfaction' survey.

Interviews are due to start soon with a sample of 3,000 clients, including the parents with care of the children - usually the mother - and the absent parents.

But two aggrieved fathers, who face a four-fold increase in payments, who heard about the survey and asked to be included were told by Mori they could not take part because the sample had been selected.

Mike Pimblott from Southampton, who wanted to be included in the survey, is co-ordinating a network of groups to campaign against the new assessments being imposed since the agency was set up in April.

Over the next three years the agency will be assessing payments made to parents with care of the children who are on income support or family credit or who have no court order. From 1996 mothers who are not on income support and who already have a court settlement can apply to the agency to have the payment increased. More than 430,000 absent parents who were already paying maintenance could face increased bills.

Ministers have consistently emphasised the agency was to track down 'feckless' absent fathers who did not pay anything towards the upkeep of their children. But many who do not pay maintenance are unemployed and on income support and so are exempt from paying.

Last month a leaked memo showed staff were being encouraged to target middle-class parents who were already paying maintenance to help meet the Government's target of saving pounds 530m this year.

Since assessments speeded up last month, more than 1,000 aggrieved fathers have joined action groups.

Many fathers who have previousy been paying agreed sums, taking into account their financial circumstances and arrangements such as giving their ex-wife the former marital home, or most of the equity from it, now find this is not being taken into account by the agency. Many are being ordered to pay up to one-third of their salary.

In some cases, if the increased payments take the ex-wife above income support level they are left worse off because the Treasury claws back not just income support, but also other benefits such as some housing benefit and council tax benefit and free prescriptions, dental care and school meals.

The National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux has been contacted by hundreds of people seeking advice, including ex-wives and new partners, whose income is taken into account when the agency decides whether the father can afford the assessment.

The association says the assessment formula is flawed because it fails to take account of many of the absent parent's outgoings such as debts, the cost of travel to work, bank loans or hire purchase.

One man from Leicester told the Independent that after he and his wife split up in 1991 he took out a loan to pay for a pounds 12,000 deposit on a flat in London for his ex-wife. To pay for half the pounds 600-a-month child care costs for his four-year-old son he took out another loan - which will cost pounds 5,000 over four years to repay.

He was paying pounds 100 a month maintenance, but the agency has increased this to pounds 375 a month. He said the only way he could afford to pay was to sell his house, which was worth pounds 80,000. After the pounds 30,000 mortgage, he would be left with pounds 50,000 equity of which his ex-wife wanted pounds 27,000.

The man, who is on sickness leave from his work because of the worry, said: 'I went into a state of shock . . . I feel criminalised because I can't afford to pay the new amount. She earns more money than me but this new agency gives her carte blanche to take me to the cleaners.'

News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
news

As anti-Semitic attacks rise, Grant Feller re-evaluates his identity

News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
people
News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Life and Style
fashionThe Secret Angels all take home huge sums - but who earns the most?
Sport
football

Striker ignored Brendan Rodger's request to applaud audience

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
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

Secondary teachers required in King's Lynn

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers re...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Room Leader PositionI am currently ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery NurseI am currently...

Nursery Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Breakfast and after school club wor...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?