Existing claims against CSA represent tip of massive iceberg

17 Nov 2005

Resolution’s CSA Committee Chair, James Pirrie, says: “As the CSA’s impact has widened, so have its failings. Radical reform is now urgently needed. The government needs to effect a quick and impactful change to stem the future tide of injustice.

It should acknowledge the hardship it has caused to those unnecessarily and unfairly embroiled in the current system, and move swiftly and sympathetically to resolve their cases.

Resolution has been calling for radical change for some time and in June 2005 submitted its proposals in a report to government, Reforming the Child Support Agency: Putting Money Where Mouths Are.

Recommendations for improvements include:
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.