The fabric of Britain as we know it is being ripped apart. So much is changing, almost behind our backs, we haven't got time to notice what is happening to us. And it is happening fast.

Friday, 2 December 2011

CSA Changes - Yet another stick to beat single parents.

It was announced yesterday that the government plan to scrap the (toothless) Child Support Agency and replace it with the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission will bring with it new powers to deduct child maintenance directly from non resident payers' pay packets.

Now, before we all get too excited (and by "we" I'm talking about the many thousands of lone parents who receive little or no child maintenance) a quick delve into the proposals and remit of this new agency reveal some worrying changes. More about that later.

I have a very personal interest in the way our society deals with parents who do not provide financial support for their children, mainly because I am one of the majority. Yes. Stop and read that last line again. It is estimated that three out of five resident parents receive no financial support from the non resident parent.
I have two children and I divorced my husband, due to unreasonable behaviour, back in 2005. I have never received a single, solitary penny in support. For years I decided that this was OK, and I didn't want to "rock the boat". The reasons that I didn't turn to the CSA years ago are many and after speaking to other people, I find that my experience is not unusual.

"Much better to be poor but safe"
The fear of reprisals - either physical (Parents who have fled abusive relationships are often terrified of any contact with an abusive partner) or emotional (Refusal to maintain contact with the children after a claim has been lodged).

"I don't want disagreements over everything from haircuts to holidays"
Fear of Control - There are many women (because, come on, let's be honest, 90% of lone parents with residency are women) who suffer financial control within their relationships. Women are more likely to be primary care givers and therefore not working. During my conversations with other people in my situation the number of people who are relieved that they do not have to account for every pound they spend on their children to the non resident parent was shocking.

"What's the point? All that hassle for £2.50 per week?"
The endless battle to force a non payer to actually face up to their responsibilites can drive many claimants to distraction. On a personal level I find it infuriating that the father of my children has refused to answer any of the letters sent out by the CSA and has, as usual, buried his head in the sand as far as this whole matter is concerned. I'm tired of phoning the agency, only to be told that he has not responded and that another letter will be sent. I am only 3 months into the process and I cannot imagine how it feels to be 3 years in and still without any financial benefit.

"They're the ones missing out and Karma is a bitch"
This is the constant, heartbreaking, cry of many of us. We tell ourselves and one another, that there is a divine force at work, one that will settle our scores and make things equitable in the end. Of course, it's a lie. A necessary one, a lie that helps us to cope with the day to day struggles, but is it a damaging one? I believe so - this belief weakens us and encourages passivity. Karma won't pay that electricity bill this month will it?

The Children Will Know
"One day the children will know all that you did for them and all that he didn't"
Well, no, actually. Thank you very much. I don't want my children to hate their father - how damaging is that to their psyche? I want their father to be forced to pay. It is, after all, the very least he could do.

I finally batted away these fears and "reasons" in August of this year. Six years after my divorce and 8 years since my final separation.

I have now been awarded a payment of £40 per week for my two children. This works out at £2.85 per day, per child. Just about enough to provide them with an evening meal every day, however I am one of the lucky ones. The majority of awards are in the region of £5 per week. That's a whole 71 pence per day. Of course, he hasn't paid anything and is now £440.00 in arrears. When I contacted the CSA to find out the status of my claim, I was informed that they are unable to start further proceedings until the arrears total £500.00 or 13 weeks of non payment. That's just great for those who are truly impoverished and are relying on child support just to pay for food.

There's something very wrong here, and I'm starting to wonder why our society puts more effort and vigour in chasing parking fines than it does for non payment of child support. I'm starting to wonder why there is a blanket acceptance that this is "just the way it is". I'm starting to wonder why there are high profile campaigns for fathers who want to fight to see their children (Fathers For Justice for example) but nothing for those women who are on their uppers trying to provide for their children.

I'm starting to wonder about it all.

Remember at the start of this post I mentioned that there are changes afoot?
One of the changes proposed is that, apart from survivors of domestic violence, the use of the CSA to set maintenance and chase the parent for payment will be chargeable. That's right, going forward if the non resident parent refuses to pay child maintenance, the parent who is not receiving financial support, will be charged by the agency to force the issue.

You can read more here

So what can we do?

You can start by reading about the campaign by Gingerbread, the wonderful charity which campaigns and gives practical help to single parents and getting involved in anyway you can.

Back to top


  1. That is unbelievable. I had no idea that the rate of non-payment is so high.

    What a waste of money the CSA was, but the changes are ridiculous. Taking the money directly from the non-resident parent's pay is great, but not if the onus is still on the resident parent to do all the chasing.

  2. And of course, what about those, like me, whose exes are Self Employed?

    There is still almost zero help for us.

  3. Seriously? W.T.F.? I am really lucky, for the past 15 years I've had a private arrangement with my ex husband, a 4 weekly direct debit and not much hassle at all. I did not realise I was such a minority.

    The flip side tho, whenever I declare the child maintenance nobody accepts that I receive it because it is not CSA ordained or under a court order. They can't simply check my bank statements for the past decade and a half and accept that is is regular income.

    When my ex got into financial difficulties with his new partner we were forced to have the CSA evaluate his payment since he was entering into an IVA (well the Scottish version) and they set it £100 a month less. He was gutted as he fought to keep the payments the same. The CSA tried to persuade him to let them get it even lower - they don't operate for the benefit of children, that's for sure.

  4. Excellent post - charging for it is madness. It would maybe be fair enough if the parent with care was then guaranteed support for their children as a result, but as we can see the odds are stacked against that happening. Even with the supposed powers the CSA have, too often nothing gets done.

  5. £2.85 per day? What a disgrace. How many of these children are being subsidised by the state because their non-resident parent pays NOTHING while the resident parent struggles and scrimps to provide for the children?

    Single parents so often get a bashing (especially by the Tories) by it is not single parents who are at fault. It is absent parents who fail to pay their way and yet the ConDems seek to make their lot even worse. Awful.

  6. NikkiH, that's astounding! The CSA tried to get him to REDUCE his payments?? And would like to charge you for this service :o

    Glad to hear your children have a responsible dad.

  7. Excellent, eye-opening post. I'm another one who had no idea about the three-out-of-five estimate. You've pulled together loads of powerful points here and I hope it'll be widely read.

    (I tried to leave a comment this morning but I don't think it's worked, apologies if you get two.)

  8. A quick reminder to people that you can use to easily find & email your MP :)


  9. Csa been one big joke anyway i had to claim it wen i went on benifits wen my son was 12 urs old and had not seen his dad since he was 1 yr old hes now 23 never had a penny and his dad dumped him again wen he wad 16 was a waste and my son should never have had to be hurt like that just because sumone in a suit think he knows wots best fpr people

  10. The csa do take any personal circumstances into consideration at all and take advantage of the dads that do want to see their children and have had to spend thousands of pounds in court and solictors fees just to get the odd weekend with their chidren.Single dads on a low wage get taken to the cleaners by the csa ,they dont give a shit if they can not afford to pay for fuel to go to work in the first place so the money can get taken out they wages, how does that help the non resident parent pay for things when they have the children.I asked the csa when they wanted £500 pounds because they messed up how i am going to afford to buy food for myself and my children when they came to stay over and was told to reduce my bills as this was my promblem. They just wanted the money which was taken from wages over 3 months. I earn 7.10 hour and is on a minus every month thanks csa good riddance.


later posts

earlier posts