Extra payments bring threat of poverty trap: The dutiful father

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EVERY WEEK, Jason Blake makes a 150-mile round trip from his home in Morecambe, Lancashire, to see his seven-year-old son in Blackpool. It costs him about pounds 25.

Yet he has been told that when the Child Support Agency assesses how much maintenance he should pay, it will not take this item of expenditure into account.

He is bitter about this, saying: 'All they want to do is reduce my ex-wife's benefits.'

At present, Mr Blake, a manager at a Pontin's holiday camp, pays maintenance of pounds 22 a week as well as taking his son on holiday and buying him numerous presents.

But officials have already said he can expect his payments to double and possibly triple. With a salary of less than pounds 15,000 a year, he says he will be hard pushed to find this sort of money without living in poverty or reducing the 'treats' he saves for his son.

If he fails to pay the maintenance, officials can deduct the money from his wages.

'Whatever happens, my little boy mustn't suffer,' he said last week.

He says that his former wife, who is on income support, sympathises with him, so much so that she is looking for a part-time job in an attempt to reduce the maintenance payments he will have to meet.