Thursday 2 February 2012

Here we go round the mulberry bush

Question - How do you meet your commitment to reduce child poverty in the UK? ("The coalition government has pledged to support families and maintain the goal of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020." BBC report 20 May 2010)

Answer - you charge parents a fee and a percentage in order for them to secure maintenance from absent parents.  Simples!

The news from the Commons last night was the reversal of the Lords amendments to the legislation which will mean that applicants for child support to the CSA will have to pay an upfront fee of up to £100 for making the application.  There will also be a percentage charge of 9-12% of the maintenance collected.  The justification advanced for this is that people should be encouraged to make their own agreements as to the payment of maintenance.  The problem with this is that it expresses a profound ignorance of how we came to have the CSA in the first place.

Now for some leading politicians, this ignorance is understandable if not excusable.  The first Child Support Act was passed on 25 July 1991.  At that time, David Cameron was 24 years old, Nick Clegg was also 24 years old and George Osborne was just 19!  However, it's actually Ian Duncan Smith who has responsibility for the Welfare Reform Bill which is intended to enact the present changes and he was 37 in 1991.  So why doesn't he remember what was going on then?  Sure he was first elected the following year, but wasn't he keeping tabs on the politics of the day?  The Act was easily controversial enough to merit consideration and being remembered for future reference.

Before 1991, parents could make their own agreements.  They routinely did so.  But the Conservative government of the day decided that parental agreements and even court orders, made by consent or otherwise, simply weren't producing enough maintenance and the state was being called upon to make up the shortfall.  Hence the CSA and its formulae.  Now the Conservative led government of the day has decided that we can safely go back to the old arrangement of people deciding for themselves, with an agency to resolve any disputes.  Not so very different from the system which existed prior to 1991, just without the flexibility (or uncertainty!) of the courts.

Would anyone like to start a sweepstake on how long it is before manifest deficiencies become apparent in this brave new world?

POST SCRIPT has just blogged about the Welfare Reform Bill - you really need to read it!

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1 comment:

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