Child Support Analysis

Comments on the reforms

Some say that the only good reform of the CSA is to scrap it! The stance below is:
"assuming that the CSA will continue to exist and be reformed, here are judgements on specific reforms".

The changes needed to improve these problems are in Child Support Agenda for the 21st Century.

Description of the reformed system
Here is a description of the reformed system.
It is a multi-page article that summarises individual topics, and also cites detailed references for those who need them.
Here is a summary of the changes in the reformed system.
Really, they comprise a large set of tweaks. There is nothing fundamental.

Natural rate of conversion to the new rules
This provides a view of how the proportion of the CSA caseload based on the new scheme rather than the old scheme will increase over time, even without a full conversion.

Challenging questions
Here are questions intended to challenge assumptions that have built up in the UK about what a child support should be trying to achieve and how it should operate. These questions have been answered (deliberately or perhaps unconciously) in certain ways in the UK, leading to the current and reformed schemes.

Different answers to these questions would lead to very different child support systems (or even no child support system at all!)
Some nations and states have answered them differently, as indicated. A thesis of this web site is that the UK should answer several of these questions differently in the 21st Century.

Two types of problems with the reformed scheme

There are 2 very different types of problem with the reformed scheme that this web site seeks to help supersede:

Lesser problems: there are flaws in the way the design of the reformed scheme have been translated into legislation. In other words "implementation faults".

Major problems: there are flaws in the basic design of the reformed scheme. It is designed for the 1990s, not for the 21st Century. In other words "design faults".

This web site is primarily concerned with the second, major type of problem. Many of these are not simply problems with the child support legislation and with the CSA. They are problems with the whole "system" of the way that the children of separated parents are brought up. (For example, one of the most important recent improvements to child support in the UK is the disregard of child support in the tax credit system. This was actually nothing really to do with child support legislation or the CSA, but it made many lone parents and their children better off and improved the relationships among many separated parents and their children).

This web site also identifies several of the first, lesser, type of problem. This is easy to do because there are a lot of them! They are separated out when discussing "What next?"

The Good ...

The reformed formula does not take into account the incomes of the new partners of the parents.
Except indirectly when considering the household's Working Families Tax Credit.

The way that the current scheme uses the income of the new partner of the NRP is a continuing source of resentment and friction. It was actually part of a well-meaning attempt to allow the NRP's housing costs to be taken into account, but comes into the category "the road to hell ..."!

The reformed formula has a more sensible marginal rate of increase as income increases.

The current scheme, combined with tax, can stop extra gross income at up to 89p in the £. The reformed scheme, combined with tax, peaks at about 65p in the £. This is still an issue, but not quite the same incentive to drop out or commit fraud.

The reformed formula tends to focus more on leaving the NRP with adequate income to have a life, and also discriminates on number of children.

The current scheme effectively ignores the number of children unless the NRP is earning a significant amount, and simply tries to claim as much income as can be tolerated as soon as it is safe.

The reformed formula is predictable and verifiable.

The current formula can't even be calculated accurately by the CSA staff charged with doing so!

The £10 disregard in Income Support will slightly improve the lot of some of the poorest children in society.

The current scheme often makes those poor children even worse off!

... the Bad ...

The formula for "shared care" is grotesque.
The excuses put forward are invalid

The reformed scheme takes into account the NRP's step children. The NRP pays less for children s/he is responsible for as a result of children s/he is not responsible for. It isn't wrong per se to take "social parenting" into account, but it is wrong to do so outside of a considered strategy on social parenting.

The logic behind the "2nd family children" formula is flawed.

The reformed formula attempts to enable the children to "share in the wealth of their parents".

This may feel the right thing to do, but it is impossible to have a fair and workable way of doing so using a child support system.
Other mechanisms are needed

In spite of the Income Support disregard being considered "good", it could be significantly better.
It still reveals the hand of the Treasury trying to minimise social security payments to lone parent households, some of the most poverty-struck households around. This must change in future.
Child support is still awarded to the parent (or person) with care, instead of to the child.
... and the Ugly!

One feature of the formula is so incredibly bad that there is no competition for this prize.
The way that "equal shared care" is handled must surely be an act of desperation

Here is just one symptom of its failings. Suppose the parents share care by an identical amount. The amount paid by the person who doesn't claim Child Benefit (aka "the father") to the person who claims Child Benefit (aka "the mother") varies according to the number of children. Suppose that he earns £210 per week net:

Number of children Child support


£9 pw


£7 pw

3 or more

£5 pw


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Page last updated: 28 November, 2005 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2005