CSA to hit hard on errant dads’ pay

Author: Stephen Castle, Political Editor

The reforms will simplify the complex formula used to assess how much errant fathers should pay. Furthermore, fathers who fail to pay up could face more deductions of earnings straight from their pay packets.

The Government’s green paper, due to be published in eight days’ time, aims to resolve one of the last Conservative Government’s longest-running social policy disasters. Set up in 1993, the CSA was widely castigated for its failings. Among other expected reforms is a change to regulations that deduct money obtained through the CSA from income support.

This has acted as a deterrent to mothers to name their ex-partners because many have no financial interest in doing so.

Baroness Hollis, the social security minister in charge of the review, will presage several changes in an interview to be shown today on BBC2’s Around Westminster programme.

Asked by Malcolm Wicks, Labour MP for Croydon North, what her message is to those fathers who refuse to provide support, Lady Hollis replies: “We are saying to them: ‘truly you are a deadbeat dad'”.

Lady Hollis alludes to the changes to the formula when she argues: “We spend so long to get all the information in about what they should pay that there is very little staff time spent on enforcing maintenance and maintenance compliance”.

Under her plans absent fathers will pay a fixed percentage of their net income, probably up to a maximum of 25 per cent, to support their children.

This is expected to be broken down so that 15 per cent would be paid for one child with a further five per cent for each additional child, up to 25 per cent.

The minister also hints at changes to income support regulations which deduct benefit from those who get cash via the agency. She says: “It has been put to us that we should look to see whether some of the maintenance can be kept by the mothers and we are looking at that”.

Already the CSA has the power to press for orders that deduct money from the earnings of errant fathers, and use of them could be stepped up.

Asked if further measures are required, Lady Hollis replies: “We would obviously prefer fathers to pay voluntarily their maintenance towards their children so that the children can see that their fathers are engaged in supporting them. But if the father can pay and refuses to, we shall ensure he does pay”.

Mr Wicks, a member of the social security select committee, said: “We have to change the culture so when people have children they accept responsibility to support them whatever happens in terms of divorce. The CSA clearly has not worked. It is right that the Government is going for fundamental reform.”

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