Single parents facing long wait for maintenance cash: Family lawyers and charities accuse Child Support Agency of inefficiency

SINGLE MOTHERS are being denied help with the costs of bringing up their children as a result of lengthy delays at the new Child Support Agency, according to lawyers.

Solicitors specialising in family law say the agency, which was set up to obtain maintenance from absent parents, is dogged by inefficiency, with some applicants told they will have to wait many months for their cases to be considered.

One mother was told she could not expect maintenance for five months, due to a backlog of claims at her local office. 'What's she supposed to do in the meantime?' her solicitor said. The criticisms will embarrass the Government which has touted the organisation as the spearhead of its campaign against errant fathers. When it was set up in April, Peter Lilley, the Secretary of State for Social Security, said the agency would track down absent parents and assess how much they should contribute to the costs of bringing up their children, eventually saving the taxpayer up to pounds 600m a year.

But such claims are far from being fulfilled, according to Glenys Hodkinson, vice-president of the DSS group at the National Union of Civil and Public Servants, which represents staff at the agency. 'It's horrendous and it will take months, if not years, to sort out.'

She said staff had not been given sufficient training to handle the complex tasks involved in assessing maintenance and obtaining the money. Most women were having to wait up to 12 weeks for claims to be assessed, with some losing out financially during this period.

The delays would also hit fathers because claims were backdated to the day of the application. Arrears inevitably built up if staff at the agency could not send out the forms promptly, Ms Hodkinson said.

Her concerns were echoed by lawyers and charities. Wendy Mantle, a solicitor and expert on the Child Support Act, said: 'All our worst fears are materialising. If they cannot cope at this stage, one wonders what will happen later.'

Gingerbread, the single-parents' support group, said that it had surveyed 200 mothers and found that just six had been contacted by the agency.

The National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux said its members had had to deal with a number of the agency's errors. For instance, a happily married man was surprised to be sent a letter saying that he owed maintenance to a child born as the result of a previous relationship. When he rang the agency he found that the letter should have been sent to another man of the same name.

However, last week, the Child Support Agency rebutted the criticisms. 'From our point of view, the agency is off to a steady start,' a spokeswoman said. 'It is early days but we have not had anything major raised with us.'

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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most