CSA compensation scheme drawn up

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Indy Politics
A compensation scheme is being drawn up for victims of errors by the Child Support Agency, Alistair Burt, the junior Social Security minister in charge of the agency, disclosed yesterday. Details are expected to be announced within weeks as a Government-wide review of compensation is completed, stating where compensation should be paid for financial loss or demonstrable injury to physical or mental health.

Mr Burt said the department was working on that as MPs on the Select Committee on the Ombudsman complained bitterly at the lack of compensation available now. Almost 30,000 people made complaints about the CSA in its first year of operation, but to date only 16 people have received compensation totalling £1,150.

That figure was dismissed as "paltry" by Dr Tony Wright, a Labour member of the committee, as its chairman, the Conservative James Pawsey, attacked the "rigmarole" surrounding the present system where any award over £250 has to be approved by the Treasury.

Mr Burt said: "We wish to put into place the department's own scheme as soon as we can". But he warned against a system which "might allow compensation for virtually any error or action by the state".

The committee heard that the agency is to be given substantially revised targets which may in future cover how much money it succeeds in getting to parents with care, rather how much it saves the Treasury in benefit payments.

Ann Chant, the agency's new chief executive, said some of its problems had stemmed from the "unprecedented" campaign against it. "I have never seen in over 30 years in social security such an orchestrated and organised attempt to avoid legal liability," she said.