Critics attack 'tinkering' on child support

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THE FIRST minor government concession over the operation of the Child Support Agency yesterday brought complaints from pressure groups and opposition MPs that the change did nothing to address key concerns over the controversial scheme, writes Nicholas Timmins.

Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Secretary for Social Security, announced yesterday that the agency, which assesses maintenance payments, would consider mothers on income support in the light of their circumstances rather than merely working through them in order over three years.

This could mean earlier help for families who would come off benefit if the absent father paid up. But it was attacked as 'half-hearted tinkering' with the system by Donald Dewar, Labour's social security spokesman, after bitter complaints that the agency has concentrated on absent fathers who already pay some maintenance rather than seeking out those who pay none, and that it is using a rigid formula that is upsetting deals between divorced and separated parents.

The change 'does not strike at the injustices which are undermining confidence in the CSA,' he said.