Judgement delivers further blow to thousands failed by CSA

19 Jun 2007

The Court of Appeal today ruled that the Child Support Agency (CSA) does not owe a duty of care to the children and parents on whose behalf it collects maintenance. This judgement has far reaching implications for the thousands of families failed by the CSA. Resolution had intervened in the case in an effort to clarify how families failed by the CSA can obtain compensation.

“Clearly this judgement is a major blow to those families who have fallen foul of the inadequacies of the CSA, said Kim Fellowes, Chair of Resolution’s CSA committee.

“The failings of the CSA are legendary and it is astonishing therefore that the Government has thus far been silent on its plans to recompense those failed by it.

“For the last fourteen years, thousands of children have been badly let down by the CSA. The Government have insisted that enforcement of claims for maintenance be processed through the CSA and have utterly failed to address the real hardship and distress caused by its manifest failures.”

As the recently published Child Maintenance Bill passes through Parliament over the next few weeks, Resolution is calling on MPs to ensure that the new bill sets out clearly the rights to redress for those failed to date and for any errors in the future.

“The Government aims to create a new child maintenance agency divorced from the mistakes of the past. For this to work – the legacy of the past two schemes must be dealt with. Otherwise the new system will be crippled even before it has begun,” said Kim Fellowes.

Notes to editors:
1. That the CSA is a failure is well documented:

3.5 billion uncollected maintenance arrears
760 million “statute barred” i.e. due prior to July 2000 where no Liability Order obtained
Auditor General has qualified CSA accounting each and every year for last 10 years due to CSA errors
During 2004-2005 over half the full maintenance assessments reviewed as part of the National Audit Office’s annual assessment of accuracy throughout the lifetime of the case, were found to have errors on them at some time
In 2005 the Child Support Agency Standard Committee reported to the Work and Pensions Select Committee that 65% of cases where a liability order was sought, were inaccurate.

2. On Tuesday 8th May single parent Denise Rowley asked the Appeal Court to rule on whether she can bring a case that the Child Support Agency (CSA) was negligent in its handling of her claim for child maintenance. This is the first time that the Courts have been asked to rule on whether the CSA owes a duty of care to the parents and children on whose behalf it collects maintenance. It is also the first time that family law group, Resolution, has formally intervened in a case in its 24-year history.

3. In its judgement the Court of Appeal stated that “the existence of the right of appeal given by section 20 and the right to receive interest on arrears in prescribed circumstances given by section 41, when taken in conjunction with the right to seek judicial review of failures to collect or enforce arrears of maintenance, means that the 1991 Act provides the person with care with substantial protection against incompetence on the part of the CSA”.

“The fact that there may be cases where incompetence on the part of the CSA causes loss which cannot be recovered under the statutory scheme is not a sufficient reason to impose a duty of care”.

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:
Teresa Richardson
Head of Communications
020 7357 9215
Mob: 07894 981 020

Kim Fellowes
Chair of Child Support Committee
Dickinson Dees LLP - 0191 279 9287
Mobile - 07980715529