LETTER: Calling the CSA to account

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The Independent Online
From Mr Richard Oppenheimer

Sir: The response by Tony Ward, director of operations at the Child Support Agency (Letters, 16 October), to Polly Toynbee's article is misleading.

Last year, as a result of its own actions, the CSA collected pounds 64m of maintenance for offset against state funds, at a cost of pounds 192.4m. The remaining pounds 128m was revenue brought forward from the old Liable Relatives Unit and for which the CSA can claim no credit. By contrast, in its last year, the Liable Relatives Unit offset pounds 313m of maintenance against state funds, at a cost of pounds 61m.

Of the 500,000 cases which the CSA handled last year, more than three- quarters were cleared with the absent parent being asked for pounds 2.30 a week or less, and because of the nature of the formula many people who were previously paying at least something are now effectively paying nothing. That is why the number of people receiving maintenance has now fallen to an all-time low.

Ms Toynbee is right to ask if the CSA is on the verge of collapse. It is doomed to failure on financial grounds alone. The arithmetic of the CSA's assessment formula dictates that it will never be able to offset as much maintenance against state funds as the system it replaced. The simple truth is that, over three years, replacing the Liable Relatives Unit with the CSA has delivered a loss to the taxpayer of pounds 1.1bn.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Oppenheimer

Network Against the

Child Support Act

Milton Keynes

18 October