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The old-fashioned paradigm
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Related topic - Problems when the NRP's household claims Working Families Tax Credit
Related topic - Should Working Families Tax Credit be included as NRP's net income?
Related topic - Suggested alternative to treating tax credits as NRP's income
Related topic - Sharing wealth with the Treasury
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The old-fashioned paradigm

The model on which the reformed scheme is based

The reformed scheme, like the current scheme, is oriented towards:

"Lone Mother on Income Support with young children + Absent Father with significant income".

Justification for this statement

This is justification for the claim above about what the schemes are based on. It is not justification for basing the schemes on this model!

It isn't that all features of the schemes are based on this model. It is that this is the starting point, and then different cases are handled by "tweaks" and "fudges", not by building them into the starting point.

Word or phrase The evidence that this is the government's model

The reformed scheme implements "children sharing in the wealth of their parents" by transferring ever larger amounts of money from NRP to PWC.

But this barely works if there is just one adult and no extra children in the household of the qualifying children. It goes badly wrong, with money being diverted away from the qualifying children, if there are extra people.

Mother The equal sharing case chooses a parent with care according who claims Child Benefit. By default, that is the mother. So where there is no other way of choosing, it is assumed that the mother needs to be paid by the father.
on Income Support

The formula, including the percentages, were dictated by being Treasury neutral over a period of years. It was assumed that the Treasury interest was sufficient to dictate the formula. (In fact, probably less than one quarter of all the child support money calculated by the CSA will have any taxpayer/Treasury interest).

The White Paper says that the reasoning behind the need to choose a parent with care in the equal sharing case is to protect the taxpayers interests. But the reformed scheme doesn't bother check whether taxpayers even have an interest! It simply takes it for granted that the taxpayers need to be protected by the equal-sharing parent who claims Child Benefit having to be paid by the equal-sharing parent who doesn't.

with young children

The child support is awarded to the PWC, not to the children.

Older children, perhaps at further education into their 20s, have to be handled via the courts, not via the CSA. There is no "join" between these - for example, no child support money can be put aside by the NRP to cater for the further education of the children, even when it is much larger than the Small Fortunes amount.

Absent The formula starts with how a 100% absent parent pays a 100% caring parent. Then shared care is bolted onto this with an unfair "fudge" which is claimed won't impact many people.
Father See "Mother" above.
With ... income

The formula is obviously designed to take money off the NRP according to the NRP's income.

In the shared care case, an NRP on benefits is driven well below the poverty level - an NRP needs income to afford to share care.

significant The government emphasises the "15% / 20% / 25%" formula. In fact, these only apply once the NRP is earning at least £200 net per week. Currently, only about one quarter of them do.

The "pull" of this paradigm

Some people discussing child support appear to believe that CSA cases are all "similar" to this. Even when discussing an explicitly different situation, some people make statements that indicate they are really discussing this sort of case. The reformed scheme has been designed in part by interpreting totally different situations as though they were "really" this case. This leads to some astonishing statements and unfair law.

Here is a test for the reader! What do you think the consequences of the 2nd sentence of this statement from the CSA Reform White Paper should be?

"Some organisations representing non-resident parents did press for a more substantial reduction in the child support rates – so that if care is split equally (that is, if the child spends on average three and a half nights a week with each parent) no maintenance is due. On the other hand, parents with care pointed out that the cost of keeping a child is not necessarily greatly reduced if the child spends several nights away from home." (CSA Reform White Paper, Chapter 7, paragraph 14).

Should it be: "because the cost to the mother of keeping a child is not necessarily greatly reduced if care is split equally, the father should pay child support?"

Should it be: "because the cost to the father of keeping a child is not necessarily greatly reduced if care is split equally, the mother should pay child support?"

If you choose the first and reject the second - why? Now ask yourself this question:

"if care is split equally, who is the parent with care - the mother or the father?"

If you chose "the parent with care is the mother, and the father should pay child support", you are in "good" company. The government has chosen this version, and designed the reformed scheme for it. There is no logic for this. They were lured by the paradigm, even though this is a very different situation. In fact, it should be obvious that the stated facts are insufficient to choose either of these consequences! Either no-one should pay, or more information is needed, for example "who earns most?"

The legislation for the reformed scheme chooses the mother rather than the father as parent with care if everything is equal. The father then has to pay nearly half the amount he would pay if he never even saw the child. Why?


Perhaps a quarter (although probably fewer) of CSA cases do conform to the government's model. Any scheme has to cater for these cases.

But this is not the only model, and perhaps not the most common model. It has distorted the formula to an extent unwarranted by its frequency. It is a model driven by old-fashioned 1980s thinking, and Treasury protection. It is certainly nothing about relieving child poverty!

The scheme for the 21st Century needs to start with the more general case, then cater for the various factors show in the table as special cases. They can still be handled effectively - but they won't be the default assumption.


[1] CSA Reform White Paper
Children's rights and parents' responsibilities

Page last updated: 17 December, 2003 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003