The Child Support Agency or CSA. I didn't know much about it until recently. It was one of those abbreviations I'd heard of, knew what it stood for, and recalled one or two stories I'd read about errant dads not paying maintenance and going AWOL with the CSA in hot pursuit.
Then this week, a contact asked me to have a look at a campaign set up by Gingerbread, the organisation which supports single parents. Gingerbread is urging people to write to their MPs in protest of the government's plans to CHARGE single parents to use the CSA from 2012.
CHARGE parents to collect the funds they are entitled to, to support their children? As I said, I've had no dealings with the CSA before, but given my current circumstances, that will probably change very soon. So I was interested to read up on the proposals and see just what they meant for single parents. And what I read left me as dumbfounded and outraged as the person who forwarded me the info in the first place.
According to the explanation from Gingerbread, the CSA is to close, with a new scheme taking over from 2012 under the control of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC).
Parents who use the new body will face the following charges:
An application fee of £100, paid in advance (£50 for people on benefits, with £20 due in advance)
A minimum 7 of any child maintenance paid, called a collection charge.
Non-resident parents (as in the parent the child does not live with) will not have to pay an application fee. Once CMEC has worked out the child maintenance, if the non-resident parent chooses to pay up without CMEC involvement, there will be no collection charges (and the non-resident parent can choose to do this even if the resident parent doesn't agree). Whilst if the CMEC does collect the payments, the non-resident parent will then pay a collection surcharge between 15-20%, plus a further charge if enforcement action is necessary.
It beggars belief. I wrote last week that separation and divorce is a costly business unless you are a fame-hungry celeb who can use his or her broken relationship as a career move. Reading all this stuff today has convinced me even more of that.
How on earth can such a scheme ever be fair or in the interest of the children involved (because let's not forget just WHO these maintenance payments are for)?
For a government who claim to want to make our country more family friendly, and who say they are supportive of 'strong and stable' families of 'all kinds', this is not only an insult, but a further financial burden to single parents at probably the most traumatic and vulnerable point in their lives.
How can penalising them by charging them to arrange the maintenance their children are entitled to ever constitute a fair and family-friendly society?
What do you think about this story?
Were you aware of the changes to the CSA?
What have your experiences of the CSA been?
Do you believe this is profiteering from couples' separation misery?