MPs hold inquiry into child agency: Select committee responds to growing complaints

AN ALL-PARTY committee of MPs is to hold an investigation into the formula operated by the Child Support Agency for assessing maintenance payments, after receiving hundreds of complaints from divorced and separated fathers who have been ordered to pay huge increases since the agency was set up in April.

Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, and Ros Hepplewhite, chief executive of the agency, are to be called to give evidence to the social security select committee in the next few weeks.

The committee decided yesterday to hold an inquiry because of the volume of complaints received by MPs during the summer. Since the agency began work in April it has taken on 500,000 cases and had sent out 20,000 new assessments by the end of August.

Many absent fathers who were not previously paying anything towards the upkeep of their children are unemployed or on low incomes and so will be exempt from paying. A leaked memorandum showed staff were being encouraged to target middle-class parents who already had court orders and were therefore easiest to trace, to help meet the Government's target of saving pounds 530m this year.

Frank Field, the committee's Labour chairman, said: 'We remain supportive of the Child Support Agency and the reforms, but we are going to look into how it operates in practice. Given the enormous number of letters we have had we know what the grievances are and we will use these as the basis for our questioning on the operation of the scheme.

'We will focus on things we feel are unfair. There are clean break settlements in which fathers have handed over the house or equity from it in exchange for low maintenance payments and these payments are being overturned. We warned this would be a real bone of contention but the Government rejected taking this into account.

'There are fathers who have remarried and are having to support stepchildren because their natural father is unemployed or on low income and does not have to pay. There is also a case for phasing in increased payments over, say, two years to give fathers a chance to readjust their finances.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Testing Manager

£30000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

£17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Consultant - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ope...

Recruitment Genius: Pricing & Purchasing Analyst

£15000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest independent ...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash