Suicide man had 'frightening' CSA bill

A coroner is to make representations to the Child Support Agency on hearing how a father hanged himself after his maintenance payments almost trebled.

A CSA letter which was found in Sean Lyford-Smith's flat in Taunton, Somerset, told him his voluntary payments of pounds 10 a week for his four-year-old daughter were being increased to pounds 27.75 and there were arrears of pounds 578.78. 'This is likely to have had a frightening effect,' the West Somerset coroner, Michael Rose, said.

Mr Lyford-Smith, 23, a computer operator, was found hanging from belts at his home on 12 March.

James Creber, a CSA official, said a maintenance application was made in June 1993 by Joanne Patey for their daughter, Maria. In January he was assessed to pay pounds 27.75 from 12 September. In February he was re-assessed to pay pounds 12.85. At the time of his death he owed arrears of pounds 693.54.

Mr Lyford-Smith's flatmate, Adrian Willey, said in a statement that he had told him he could not afford to pay the increased maintenance. He had also mentioned troubles at work.

Recording a verdict of suicide, the coroner said the inquest was not an inquiry into the CSA. But he added: 'I can't help wonder whether I would be sitting here today if the right figures had been arrived at earlier . . .'

Ministers have placed short-term gains to the taxpayer above children's welfare in the overhaul of the child maintenance system, a report into the CSA by the National Association of Citizen's Advice Bureaux said.

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