Leading children’s charities have urged those responsible for redesigning the Child Support Agency to remember its role in delivering the Every Child Matters agenda and the key pledges on child poverty.
The calls followed the announcement that the much-beleaguered CSA was to undergo its third review in 15 years. Work and pensions secretary John Hutton said a report would be produced this summer to make recommendations on a complete redesign of the agency. He said that by 2008 there would be 200,000 more children benefiting from an additional £140m in maintenance payments, and that 40,000 more children would be lifted out of poverty. Last year the CSA collected £600m, benefiting 500,000 children.
In the meantime, £120m will be pumped into the service to clear the backlog of cases and to get tough on parents who do not meet their responsibilities. Some debt collection will be contracted out, and the CSA will be given access to credit reference records.
Chris Pond, director of charity One Parent Families, welcomed the news but called for the introduction of a child maintenance guarantee, allowing a proportion of the money owed to be paid up-front. “It is time the government took some of the risk,” said Pond. “The government must invest further to create a child maintenance scheme that delivers if it is to meet its wider ambition of lifting children in this country out of poverty.”
Deputy director of policy and research at children’s charity Barnado’s John Harris added: “More than a quarter of children are living in poverty in Britain today. For the children in lone parent families this figure is a startling 48%. We hope that the revised system will recognise the role it could and should play in achieving the government’s policy objectives for children set out in Every Child Matters.”