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Dundee City Council's Liberal Democrat Finance Convener speaks out on CSA "shambles"

February 18, 2006 3:55 PM
Children.

Dundee LibDems emphasise the need for real reform of child support

Speaking today (Saturday 18th February 2006), Cllr Fraser Macpherson, Convener of Finance on Dundee City Council, renewed Dundee Liberal Democrats' concerns about the Child Support Agency and the lack of an effective response by Tony Blair's Labour Government.

Cllr Macpherson said today, "The CSA has been in crisis ever since it was established in 1993. It remains a failing organisation, and one which even the Prime Minister believes is 'not properly suited to carry out [its] task'. It has failed to achieve its stated objectives, and its performance has been appalling. Thousands of families are being forced to rely on a system of child support that simply is not delivering.

"The recent announcement by the Secretary of State of another review of the CSA seems to me to be absurd. In March 2005, the then Secretary of State, Alan Johnson MP, asked the new Chief Executive of the CSA to undertake a review of its findings. This seems to have resulted in proposals which were judged by the Department to be too expensive, and so this new review, led by Sir David Henshaw, is intended to consider the 'longer term policy and delivery arrangements for child support' and will report before summer recess.

"The Liberal Democrats believe that what is needed is urgent reform, not yet another review. Nonetheless, we believe that any system of child support that this review recommends must adhere to a clear set of principles. These include ensuring that the well-being of the child is paramount - we believe that parents have a moral responsibility to maintain their own childcare whenever they can afford to do so. The organisation responsible for arranging and enforcing child support must also command respect, and compliance must become the norm.

"This is why the Liberal Democrats believe that the CSA in its existing form should be scrapped, and its responsibilities transferred to HM Revenue and Customs. There will need to be a transitional period, during which relevant information held by the Revenue must be made available to the existing CSA. The new system must maintain a simple, tax-like formula for assessing maintenance, and if payments of maintenance do not commence within, say, 28 days, then it should be deducted at source from income. There should also be a new statutory requirement on non-resident parents to report a change of address or change of job, and a Child Support Arbitrator should be established to impose a solution that reflects the particular circumstances of the family in long-running cases.

"We, in the Liberal Democrats will continue to press the Government for urgent reform of the CSA, as it is vital that a viable system of child support is put into place as soon as possible," concluded Cllr Macpherson.

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