Troubled CSA Facing Axe Under Plans

Government plans to scrap the Child Support Agency in its current form are to be set out in a White Paper. Although the measures are being presented by Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton as a reform of the CSA, the agency which emerges from the process is thought unlikely to bear much resemblance to the much-criticised body created 13 years ago.
{mosimage}Reports suggest that ministers are preparing to write off as much as £1.2 billion of the £3.5 billion in unpaid child maintenance payments which the CSA has failed to recover from absent parents.

The Queen’s Speech in November confirmed that the Government was planning a bill during the current parliamentary session to “improve the system of child support”. The paper – to be unveiled in a statement to the House of Commons by Mr Hutton – will set out the proposed outlines of legislation, which is expected to bring down the curtain on the CSA.

In its place will come a new, smaller body intended to provide a simpler and more effective way of collecting child maintenance. The White Paper is expected to detail plans to end the requirement that all lone parents with care responsibilities who claim state benefits – mostly mothers – must also submit a claim to receive child maintenance.

Ministers believe that this will encourage separated fathers and mothers to come to voluntary arrangements for financial support for their children.

There is also expected to be stronger enforcement powers on parents who repeatedly fail to pay maintenance – possibly including curfews or the suspension of passports.

The reforms – drawn up after Sir David Henshaw’s review of the CSA published earlier this year – may take up to five years to implement.