Hiring private debt collectors for CSA means more money

19 Jan 2006

Selling the Child Support Agency's debt to private firms is an horrendous delegation of responsibility on the part of the government.

Andrew Greensmith, Vice Chair of Resolution, said: "The prospect of a percentage of money owed in child support being paid to debt collection agencies is morally wrong. Why should children and parents with care pay over the odds for the failure of the CSA to collect money properly owed to them?

"Similarly, there are many case where there is a genuine dispute in the amount owed, and where the CSA has failed to deal with this properly. Are these parents now going to have to argue on their doorsteps with debt collectors in order to get justice?"

Resolution has been calling for radical change since failures with the CSA first came to light and in June 2005 submitted its proposals in a report to government: “Reforming the Child Support Agency - Putting Money Where Mouths Are”.

Key points:
The transparent formula, introduced in 2003, should be retained for most cases and be moved within the Inland Revenue to allow easy access to reliable income data, the key factor under the formula.

A new Child Maintenance Arbitrator should be introduced to quickly resolve complex cases so disputes can be settled fairly and decisively. This will prevent delays in payment. The removal of complex cases will unclog the Agency, freeing up resources. Couples will generally accept an imposed solution when they have had their say and a decision is made by an impartial, expert third party.

A separate Maintenance Enforcement Unit should be established with a single focus on ensuring payment. Existing powers should be used to a greater extent so that non-payment is not tolerated.

Couples should be able to agree a fair solution themselves and be bound by their agreement without the risk of interference by the Agency, unless there is a legitimate public interest such as a benefits claim. Where couples are already involved in divorce/separation proceedings in the courts, the court should retain jurisdiction so the overall financial settlement is not undermined by a subsequent CSA application.