Benefit 'not passed on to children'

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Indy Politics
MAINTENANCE that is being deducted every week from hundreds of absent parents who are on Income Support is being kept by the Department of Social Security and not passed on to the children, writes Rosie Waterhouse.

The bureaucratic blunder occurred because the Government failed to create a mechanism to transfer the pounds 2.20 a week deducted by the Benefits Agency to the Child Support Agency which is supposed to pass it on to the parent with care of the children.

Both agencies are part of the Department of Social Security but administered separately as Next Steps Agencies. The CSA was set up in April last year to take over from the courts and DSS the role of assessing and collecting child maintenance.

In the first three years the CSA is assessing cases where the parent with care of the child - in 90 per cent of cases the mother - is on Income Support or does not have a court maintenance order.

When the caring parent is on Income Support the CSA keeps the maintenance until he or she is floated off benefit. But when the caring parent is not on Income Support or is a low earner and receives Family Credit, maintenance should be passed on to the children.

The mistake came to light after several Citizens Advice Bureaux received complaints that although the money was being deducted from benefits paid to absent parents it was not reaching the children.

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