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Welfare Reform on the Web (March 1999): Child Maintenance System - UK

CARROT AND STICK IS THE POLICY TO MAKE FATHERHOOD PAY

S. Buckby
Financial Times, 7th July 1998, p. 12

Places reforms of the Child Support Agency in the context of broader government policy to support the family. While errant fathers are to be dealt with more efficiently by the child support system, they have also been given new rights in the upbringing of their children. Unmarried fathers who sign the birth register are to be given equal legal rights over the upbringing of their children with the mothers. Predicts an enhanced role for primary health workers in giving support to relationships and teaching good parenting.

CHILDREN FIRST: A NEW APPROACH TO CHILD SUPPORT

London: TSO, 1998 (Cm 3992)

At present the taxpayer is providing support to more than 1.8 million children who are not receiving maintenance from absent parents; over 70% of lone mothers on income support seek to avoid making child support applications, and one third of child support assessments take more than six months to complete. Proposes to simplify the child maintenance system by basing liability on a simple slice of net income. Non-resident parents would pay 15% of net income for one child, 20% for two and 25% for three or more. Lone parents on income support will be allowed to keep £10.00 of the maintenance paid for their children. This will provide an incentive for co-operation with the child maintenance scheme.

MODEST HOPES FOR CALAMITOUS CSA

P. Toynbee
Guardian, 3rd July 1998, p. 8

Reports on the disastrous impact of the Child Support Agency. Traces the problems to two root causes:

  • refusal to let mothers on income support keep any of the money reclaimed from fathers;
  • making the legislation retrospective.

PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSIONER FOR ADMINISTRATION

Fifth report, Session 1997-98
London: TSO 1998
(House of Commons papers, Session 1997/98; HC 845)

Identifies numerous weaknesses in the Child Support Agency's performance, including general administrative inefficiency, delay and confusion on reviews, poor internal communications, mishandled enforcement action and problems when parents end a benefit claim and start work.

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