CSA to compensate falsely accused men

The Child Support Agency is to make a pounds 100 "consolatory payment" to men who are falsely accused of fathering children, the Government announced yesterday.

Andrew Mitchell, the social security minister, said the change would come into effect next week in the "extremely rare cases" where the CSA is at fault in sending a form to a person who is not the parent of the children in question. "This is to compensate for the possible upset and inconvenience caused by this error," he said in a written parliamentary answer.

One of the CSA's many problems since its launch three years ago has been a series of well-publicised mistakes which have threatened marriages because wives have opened letters from the CSA which were based on erroneous information.

Headlines such as "CSA blunder nearly ruined my marriage", over the story of Steven Sheppard, whose wife Janet opened a letter from the CSA, have embarrassed ministers.

According to the CSA two years ago, Mr Sheppard, the father of two girls aged seven and 12, also had a 10-year-old daughter by another woman. After the mistake was uncovered, Mrs Sheppard said: "I'm so angry. We had the biggest row of our entire marriage. In 13 years I've never once doubted Steven. But they destroyed all that trust with one letter."

In the last nine months for which figures are available, there were 28 instances where the CSA "may have been responsible" for wrongly identifying absent parents, a spokesman for the Department of Social Security said. This was an infinitesimal proportion of the 153,000 forms sent out.

The payment would not be available where the CSA acted in good faith, for example in response to malicious claims that someone had fathered a child.

The new rule forms part of a further package of reforms which have already stilled much of the fierce criticism of the CSA from aggrieved fathers.

Last year, travel-to-work costs were taken into account for the calculation of maintenance payments, and a limit of 30 per cent of the absent parent's disposable income set for maintenance.

Last week, a more thorough system of allowing "departures" from the rigid formula for calculating maintenance started to come into effect. Mr Mitchell also announced that interest would be payable on maintenance paid late because of delays caused by the CSA.

Yesterday, Mr Mitchell also announced that he would be acting on the criticisms made by William Reid, the parliamentary ombudsman. He will appoint an independent complaints examiner in the summer, as Mr Reid demanded last week.

Mr Reid said that one-third of the complaints he receives across all government departments concern the CSA.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'