Child Support Agency

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Child Support Agency

Child Support Agency

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History of the CSA

The Child Support Agency (CSA) was formed in 1993 following the Child Support Act, 1991. It was set up as a 'Next Step' agency, and reports directly to the Department of Work and Pensions (formerly the Department of Social Security). Its purposes are basically four-fold; to trace the non-resident parent (NRP), to assess how much s/he should pay in maintenance, to provide a collection service if required and to enforce payment if necessary. By the time 1992 arrived it was clear that the issue of child support was becoming a prominent issue as it had developed into a huge expenditure burden for the government. During Thatcher's era the child support bill had trebled to £6.6 billion, and thus was a massive and increasing tax burden for the country. The number of children born to unmarried mothers had risen to 31% by 1990 (10% in 1970), the number of lone parents claiming benefits had risen to 70% by 1989 (37% in 1971), yet the numbers receiving from the non-resident partner had dropped to 23% in 1989 (50% in 1979). (Harlow, 1999:155). All these statistics outline that the pressure on the government was growing to overcome these problems and that the establishment of a new body or reform was imminent to replace the court based system of maintenance provision under the Department of Social Security (DSS).

1991 saw the passing of the Child Support Act, “Which was suggested, discussed and implemented in an incredibly short time with surprisingly little opposition.” (Jenkinson 2001). Harlow (1999) suggests that this was a huge error and led to many difficulties in the early years. The absence of a pilot program meant employees were untrained and untried, and systems and technologies were not in place to support the activities of the organisation. However the agencies formation went ahead and it was formed in 1993 Mrs Ros Hepplewhite was the pioneering Chief Executive, appointed in 1993. She was recruited from the voluntary sector and had no previous experience working in a public service operation. Around half of the 5000+ staff were recruited from the agencies predecessor the “liable relatives unit” of the DSS, and thus had worked under the inefficient and ineffective organisation that preceded the CSA. Other staff were recruited from the private sector and thus brought little public sector experience to the table. According to Jenkinson (2001) the birth of the CSA brought many “huge and unwelcome changes”.

One of the key arguments that support this negative outlook on the CSA outlined by Jenkinson (2001) was that the CSA had been formed as a tax alleviating measure rather than attempt to rid the country of child poverty. This raises questions about the exact purpose of the creation of the new agency. January 1995 saw the publishing of a government White Paper promising changes to the CSA. This duly occurred with the Child Support Act ...
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