Letter: Women's poverty, absent fathers and children's needs

Sir: I was bemused by the claim that a leaked letter which I sent to Child Support Agency staff was in your possession ('CSA targets paying fathers', 7 December). This was not, in fact, a confidential document, it was a letter I sent openly to all staff on issues already in the public domain.

Your report highlights my remarks about the take-on of cases where the parent with care is reliant on benefits, and suggests that they reveal previously hidden truths. In fact, my letter gives an almost identical explanation to the one that had already been given openly and publicly by Alistair Burt, the Social Security minister, to Parliament.

It seems that even our take-on of cases where no maintenance has ever been paid generates controversy. What is at issue here is a common-sense approach to securing maintenance. If it is likely that we can easily secure a payment where none has been forthcoming before, then it is in the interests of parents with care and children, and indeed other taxpayers, to do so. This point was made quite explicitly yesterday by the Social Security Select Committee, para 18:

The committee believes that taxpayers have for too long been asked, in effect, to pick up maintenance bills that should have been met by absent parents.

These facts were not hidden. Nor are they new or a change of policy from our originally agreed take-on strategy.

Yours faithfully,

ROS HEPPLEWHITE

Chief Executive

Child Support Agency

London, SW1

7 December

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