Child Support Agency to be axed

The beleaguered Child Support Agency is to be axed under a major shake-up to be announced today by the Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton.

The moves will see parents encouraged to make their own arrangements in future so that a new streamlined agency can concentrate on chasing payments from non-compliant fathers.

There will be new powers to impose curfews on errant fathers to prevent them going out after work.

They also face having their passports confiscated to stop them taking foreign holidays.

The proposals will be announced in response to a review of child support arrangements by Sir David Henshaw, whose report is to be published this afternoon.

He is understood to be recommending that the CSA is replaced by a new organisation that will not handle payments for all parents.

Ministers agree that many parents will be happy to make their own arrangements as it will cut bureaucracy.

The reforms will also be designed to allow parents to keep more of their maintenance allowance, rather than having much of it clawed back by the CSA.

As well as helping tackle child poverty, this is felt to provide a greater incentive for fathers to pay the cash.

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman David Laws urged the Government not to write off the £3.5 billion of child maintenance arrears and 330,000 backlog of cases.

"The Government must not abandon the hundreds of thousands of families failed by 13 years of CSA incompetence," he said.

"The reforms which are being announced must be judged by one test only - will they get more money through to the children living in broken families?

"My concern is that the Government may use this opportunity to write off a large part of the £3.5bn of child maintenance arrears which is owed to families.

"In addition, the Government seems to be talking about a re-badged and shrunken CSA which may simply fail to collect even the amount of maintenance which is currently paid.

"There is a real risk that after 13 years of Government policy failure, ministers may be tempted just to wash their hands of many of the most difficult cases."

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