Minister calls for inquiry into blunder by the CSA

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AN INQUIRY has been ordered into an error by the Child Support Agency which resulted in a father and his son being ordered to pay maintenance for someone else's child.

David James, 28, of Havant, Hampshire, has just received a demand from the agency for maintenance to support a child being brought up by its mother in Gloucester. Two years ago, Mr James's father - also named David - received a bill for pounds 1,655 from the Department of Social Security. Neither man has any knowledge of the child.

The mistakes have had dire effects for the two men and their families, according to reports.

The wife of Mr James senior walked out on him, returning only months later, and his son was quoted by the Mail on Sunday newspaper as saying the mistake had ruined his relationship with his girlfriend.

Mr James's solicitor, Graeme Swain, said: 'The whole business was dreadful for Mr James senior, and when he was beginning to recover fully from it all, the Child Support Agency wrote to his son and that seems to have brought the whole thing to a head once more.'

He said father and son were now preparing to sue the DSS and the CSA for damages.

A spokesman for the DSS said inquiries - ordered by Alastair Burt, the social security minister, - would take place into how the mistakes were made and apologised for any distress caused. 'We will endeavour to learn any lessons there are to be learned from these cases,' he said.

The CSA, an executive agency of the DSS, stressed that mistakes like those involving Mr James junior were only a 'tiny handful' of the cases it dealt with.

The agency had set procedures for tracing fathers, involving information provided by the mothers of their children, including addresses, dates of birth and National Insurance numbers, a spokeswoman said.

'There have been a tiny handful of cases where these procedures have not been handled properly and we have identified the wrong person.

'This was clearly one where aspects of these procedures were not carried out correctly.'