News articles about the CSA
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The quotes provided are normally directly from the original article, but typically whole sentences and paragraphs are omitted, often without indicating where the omission is, but without altering the order of presentation. In some cases people's names are removed, and replaced thus "[X]".

Date & reference Extracts (not necessarily contiguous)

The Electronic Telegraph

New curb on demands by the CSA

By Julie Kirkbride, Political Staff

ABSENT fathers will have a new limited right of appeal against Child Support Agency assessments as part of reforms, designed to create wider public acceptance for the agency's activities, to be announced next week. A Bill amending the Child Support Act will also indefinitely delay the 1996 deadline when separated parents not on welfare can use the agency to overturn settlements agreed in court. The Government's announcement, in the form of a White Paper, will also detail significant changes to the maintenance formula on which the absent parent's income is assessed.

A senior Department of Social Security source confirmed last night that the object of the long-awaited reforms was to tackle the "running sore" of criticisms against the agency and establish a broadly-based agreement about its operations. Since its inception in April 1993 it has been plagued by administrative problems and bad publicity over high maintenance demands blamed for the suicides of a number of absent fathers.

The Electronic Telegraph

Lilley in radical reform of CSA

By George Jones and Julie Kirkbride

THE Child Support Agency is to re-open the maintenance assessments of 402,000 absent parents following sweeping reforms announced yesterday by Mr Peter Lilley, the Social Security Secretary. The changes amount to a rewriting of the CSA's rules in an attempt to gain public acceptance for the agency and end an increasingly bitter protest campaign by fathers.

Clean-break settlements, where both partners have agreed to a division of their capital, will in future be taken into account by the agency, as will the housing costs of second families. A limited right of appeal on assessments is conceded. The 1996 deadline for separated parents not on benefit to begin using the CSA to overturn settlements agreed in court has been deferred indefinitely. Child maintenance assessments will also be "capped" so that absent parents pay no more than 30 per cent of their net income. Payments by better-off absent parents will be cut substantially. The maximum additional amount payable where there are three teenage children will be reduced from £407 to £251 a week. The changes were more radical than MPs had been expecting and represent a significant climb-down by the Government.

The Electronic Telegraph

CSA leaves divorced father with 1p a week

By Hugo Gurdon

A DIVORCED father of two has been left with a penny a week after deductions from his income by the Child Support Agency. Mr Paul Hockey, of Bridgwater, Somerset, complained yesterday that the government agency, which is charged with making sure fathers pay for their children's upkeep, takes £51.99 out of the £52 a week he gets in sick pay.

The agency refuses to comment on specific cases but a spokesman said yesterday that fathers who failed to give information about their earnings must expect high assessments.

Leicester Mercury


A father killed himself the day after a flare up with his girlfriend on St Valentine’s Day, a Leicester inquest heard. Mr [X] (37) had been arguing with her over money for their children and matters came to a head when he received a letter from the Child Support Agency. Mr [X], of Peter’s Road, Leicester, took his own life on February 15 this year by tying electrical cord round his throat.

He left two suicide notes and the inquest heard that he had been suffering from depression. The cause of death was given as a ligature round the neck and assistant coroner Mr Michael Charman recorded a verdict of suicide.

The Electronic Telegraph

Couple's tender trap kept CSA from the door

By Rebecca Pike

A FORMER bedding company executive and his second wife installed a trapdoor between their flats to try to escape the attentions of the Child Support Agency. While Steven Howarth, 35, and his wife, Tracey, 28, appeared to live apart - collecting separate milk and mail in the morning outside their first and second-floor homes - they used the trapdoor to visit each other at night, a court heard yesterday.

To be with her husband, Mrs Howarth, a civil servant, had to remove a carpet over the trapdoor and climb down a ladder into his flat where the door was hidden in a false ceiling, magistrates at Fleetwood, Lancs, were told. The couple had hoped that the subterfuge at their home in Cleveleys, near Blackpool, would prevent the CSA from taking Mrs Howarth's £21,000 salary into account when assessing her husband's maintenance payments to his first wife.

The Electronic Telegraph

Civil Service complaints rise to record level

By Sonia Purnell, Whitehall Correspondent

A RECORD 1,332 people complained to the Parliamentary Ombudsman about the way they were treated by government departments last year, a rise of more than a third. Most were directed towards the Department of Social Security, whose competence to deal with the public was questioned by a Commons select committee last week, according to the ombudsman, Mr William Reid.

Many of the 526 complaints about that department concerned the Child Support Agency. Both were examples of how a ministry should not treat the public, particularly when quality of service was sacrificed for the sake of speed, he said.

Scottish Daily Record


A mother yesterday accused the Child Support Agency of hounding her son to his death. [X], who became a father at 14, was found dead in his flat after taking a lethal cocktail of pills and weedkiller.

Then the Child Support Agency clawed back a further £10, leaving him just £21.50 a week to live on. [Y], of Leith, said: "I never saw any of the money the CSA took from [X]. They didn’t need to do it that way, anyway. "[X] always gave the kids what he could, even if it was only 50p."

Scottish Daily Record


... all we know is that, last year, [X], of Rutherglen, threw himself off a bridge over the M74 and that only this month ... swallowed a cocktail of pills and weedkiller and killed himself. Both were reported to be having severe problems with the Child Support Agency.

Shropshire Star


The CSA has been blamed by a family for the death of a midlands man. Father-of-two [X] of Wolverhampton killed himself because he faced a staggering demand for money from the Child Support Agency. He was found hanging in London the day after receiving a letter ordering him to pay £105 a week maintenance to his estranged wife. He faced the demand because delays in handling the case had run up arrears of nearly £8,000. Today his mother said she believed the CSA had pushed him too far: "[X] would be alive today if it hadn’t been for them," said 47-year-old Mrs [Y] of Shelley Road, Fordhouses.

Mr [X] lived there with his parents after separating from his wife [Z]. He saw his daughters ... at least once a week. "He bought them clothes and things and took them out and into town, and made sure they didn’t want for anything," said his mother. She said the separation was acrimonious and he preferred to buy the girls things rather than pay maintenance through his wife. Mrs [Y] said that her son took home £173 a week from his job and paid her £25 board.

Today &
The Telegraph


A prison officer killed himself because he could not pay £150 a week to the CSA which ignored letters from his former wife stating categorically she did not need the money. [X], 42, the father of three teenage daughters, was found on a settee at his home in Whitchurch, Cardiff, with empty pill bottles strewn on the floor. A note next to his body said: "To whom it may concern, I am just about fed up with being here. I just can’t take any more. I just feel so alone and isolated."

His ex-wife, [Y], said he had been paying her £33 every week and covering their mortgage before the Child Support Agency became involved. "I didn’t want any more money from [X]. We were more than happy with what he had been paying. I even wrote to the CSA telling them I didn’t want the money but I heard nothing from them."

An inquest heard that Mr [X] was unable to pay his household bills on top of the CSA demands and was left £7 short every week.

The Electronic Telegraph

Low awards hit CSA credibility

By Julie Kirkbride, Political Staff

ALMOST half the absent parents assessed by the Child Support Agency are paying a maximum of £2.30 a week towards their children's upkeep. The Social Security Department figures will be embarrassing for the Government as MPs prepare today to approve the latest package of reforms of the trouble-prone agency. They are also likely to anger men on high incomes forced to hand over large sums by the agency.

According to a parliamentary written answer, of the 267,500 maintenance assessments in place by March this year, 125,600 were paying a maximum of £2.30 a week. Some 67,100 of those cases were paying nothing at all. The tables also show that the average maintenance contribution of those on income support was 93p a week, while for those in work it was £37.22. Fewer than one in five absent fathers pays more than £50 a week, while only 1,200 pay more than £100.

The Electronic Telegraph

CSA gets half of its sums wrong, says audit report

MORE than half the maintenance assessments carried out by the Child Support Agency last year were wrong, the National Audit Office said yesterday. Only 47 per cent of maintenance assessments were correct, it said. Errors, which in the worst cases led to fathers paying out £55 a week too much, were found in 37 per cent of cases. Doubt was cast on a further 17 per cent where there was insufficient evidence to tell if the demands were accurate or not.

Auditors found errors were made by staff even when they had sufficient information to calculate the correct amount of maintenance. Of these, half related to under-assessments - the largest of which was £19.41, with an average of £4.51. The remainder related to over-assessments, the largest of which was £55.63, with an average of £10.40.

The Daily Express


A father-of-seven killed himself after getting a bill for more than £10,000 from the Child Support Agency. An inquest heard that [X], 48 was found dead in his fume-filled car a day after getting the maintenance arrears demand. He had been told to pay £150 a week for three children from a previous marriage. He had previously paid £3.50 a week per child. But the bill was an interim figure because Mr [X], of Birmingham, had not properly completed a form stating he was unemployed, the city hearing heard. The arrears could have been written off if he had.

Basingstoke Gazette


A Hampshire father gassed himself in his car because he could not cope crippling financial demands from the Child Support Agency, an inquest heard. [X], aged 34, drove to a secluded beauty spot after receiving a letter from the CSA telling him to increase his maintenance. He connected a hose pipe to the exhaust of his Vauxhall Nova and fed it through a window with the engine still running.

Mr [X]’s fiancee, [Y], said he was having difficulty finding the money to pay his ex-wife, who looked after their children. He took on more and more work in an effort to meet payments. She said: "He was becoming more and more angry about it." Mid Hants Coroner Graham Short recorded a verdict of suicide. He said: "The final pressure which caused him to take his life was the maintenance he had to pay and the future must have appeared very bleak."

Bedfordshire on Sunday


Demands for cash from the Child Support Agency caused a Clifton (near Bedford) man to commit suicide. [X] had become deeply depressed because he was unable to meet large maintenance payments ordered by the agency for the upkeep of a child from a previous marriage. His decomposed corpse was found in a car at Langford on Monday 21 August. A hose pipe had been attached to the exhaust.

Mr [X], a caterer, had been missing from his home for two days. He lived with his second wife [Y] and despite making an amicable settlement with his ex-wife in court, the CSA plagued him with demands for vastly increased maintenance payments. Speaking before his funeral his wife said: "The CSA was a big factor in his death. He’s dead now and nothing is going to bring him back."

Manchester Evening News &
The Sentinel


The mother of four children who died alongside their father in a fume-filled car said her ex-husband, [X], had been beset with crippling financial problems. But [Y] said he had just received a demand for £2,800 from the Child Support Agency and ordered to pay £51.10 a week maintenance within days. [X] had rented a housing association flatlet to be nearer to his children and had secretly taken on the second job in an attempt to pay off the CSA.

He had divorced his wife after 15 years of marriage but always saw the children regularly and would baby-sit when his ex-wife went out. "He thought the world of the kids and despite the debts he still treated them the same way – as if money problems were not there," said a tearful Mrs [Y]. "He had just spent £140 on school uniforms and £100 on shoes. This was his way of saying he thought the world of the kids and loved them."

Barrow Evening Mail


A Barrow policeman killed himself when pressure from the CSA got too much for him, an inquest heard. Coroner Ian Smith recorded a verdict of suicide on Detective Constable [X] (38) who was found hanging in the garage of his home. Mrs [Y], the dead man’s wife, said he was in constant contact with the CSA and the heavy payments he had to make to support his children "made his life a misery". Mr and Mrs [X,Y] have two children of their own but he was also making payments to the two children from his previous marriage. Mrs [Y] said her husband received a letter from the CSA saying he could reduce his payments by £40. He took this to mean £40 a week but on the day he died, August 1, he had a second letter which said it was £40 a month.

The coroner said: "He had financial difficulties and felt the CSA were making his life a misery. He didn’t feel he was getting anywhere. The second letter caused him great distress and was the final straw. It’s clear beyond any doubt that he intended to take his own life."

The Electronic Telegraph

CSA wrong in 'up to half' of claims for maintenance

By Kathy Marks and Julie Kirkbride

AS MANY as half of all maintenance assessments made by the Child Support Agency last year may have been wrong, according to an independent report released yesterday. The study by Ernie Hazlewood, the Government's Chief Child Support Officer, found that only 29 per cent of assessments of monthly sums to be paid by absent parents were correct and calculated according to proper procedures. In another 15 per cent of cases processed during the year to last April the amounts were correct but staff had not followed the appropriate guidelines. In a further 28 per cent, lack of evidence meant it was impossible to reach a conclusion. Errors were definitely made in 23 per cent of cases, with parents asked to pay too much or too little. The mistakes related mainly to the way housing costs and earnings were calculated.

Mr Hazlewood said that, while the agency had improved its accuracy rate, progress was "disappointing". He said: "There is still some distance to go before standards may be regarded as generally acceptable."

Plymouth Evening Herald


A distraught Plymouth father who killed one son and tried to kill the other in a bungled suicide attempt was jailed for five years at Plymouth Crown Court on 21 November 1994 after admitting the manslaughter of two-year-old [P] and the grievous bodily harm of [Q] aged four. The Court heard that little [P] died after his father, [X], drove him and [Q] to Dartmoor on March 23, attached a hose pipe to the exhaust and fed it into his Ford Sierra car.

Mrs [Y] said she could not come to terms with the fact that the man she had loved since she was 14 could have harmed their two sons. "I know he loved them and they loved their daddy too. But you don’t do this to people you love, no matter how bad you are feeling," she said. [X] split with his wife and left the family home in Brixton earlier in the year. But he couldn’t come to terms with it and was under pressure from the CSA.

The Electronic Telegraph

Clegg in battle with wife over child cash

By Colin Randall

LEE CLEGG, the paratrooper freed in July from a life sentence for the murder of a Belfast joyrider, is embroiled in a bitter dispute with his estranged wife over a Child Support Agency assessment that he should pay £50 a week towards their son's maintenance. The CSA has told L/Cpl Clegg, 26, recently promoted from private, to pay his wife, Amanda, £219.66 a month from Jan 1 and back-payments amounting to £528.62 by Friday.

Cpl Clegg was committed to paying appropriate maintenance for their three-year-old son, Joshua, Mr McKay said. But he was appealing against the CSA assessments, since they took no account of substantial sums received by Mrs Clegg for tabloid newspaper interviews, her domestic arrangements or money paid to her by her husband during and since his imprisonment.

The Daily Express


A stately home’s curator killed himself after the Child Support Agency more than doubled his maintenance payments, his family said yesterday. Police called to Newstead Abbey, near Nottingham, found [X], 31, hanging from a staircase, surrounded by papers the family said were documents and letters about payments ordered by the government body. The day before he died, Mr [X] had received a letter from the agency asking for payments to his ex-wife and two children of £252 a month out of £500 income after tax. He had previously agreed on £100 a month with his former wife, [Y]. The couple were married 12 years ago and the divorce was finalised two months ago.

After the £252 assessment in August, he had visited his ex-wife and children and, according to a family friend, had given no indication that he was planning suicide. His former wife had apparently offered to return much of the extra maintenance because she thought the award unfair.

The Electronic Telegraph

MPs attack CSA over inaccuracy

By Julie Kirkbride, Political Staff

FIGURES showing that 40 per cent of assessments made by the Child Support Agency in its first year of operations were wrong have "deeply disturbed" MPs. MPs also said they were concerned that the agency had set a target of only 75 per cent accuracy for 1995-1996. Ann Chant, head of the CSA, told the committee that the agency would never get all of its assessments right because of the complex financial formula used to calculate maintenance owed by absent parents.

They also accepted that the agency had identified savings to the taxpayer in excess of its running costs and noted its success in tracing absent parents and collecting maintenance where none had been paid before. Their report said that the agency's activities had also had an effect on claimants withdrawing from benefit, implying further savings for the taxpayer as a result of the greater scrutiny.

Sussex Evening Argus


A father of four killed himself while under pressure from the controversial Child Support Agency, an inquest heard. [X] aged 45, of Coldean, Brighton, was found dead on November 20. He was discovered in his van parked at the Braypool sports ground in Patcham, by a man taking his dog for a walk. A hose was taped from the exhaust. A postmortem revealed that he died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Mr [X], a plumber and former driving instructor, had been suffering from depression. The inquest heard that he left letters that made it clear he intended to take his own life.

His sister, [Y], from Lancing, told the Brighton hearing he had financial problems and owed money to the CSA for two children he no longer saw. She said: "He had the CSA after him for money. Last December he said he owed £2,000. He was not allowed to see his two youngest children, which upset him dreadfully."

Sussex Evening Argus


Former village bobby, [X] aged 36, who once attacked the CSA because of the financial pressure it was placing him under, was found dead last month. Mr [X] was discovered in Germany after going missing from his home in Cuckfield, near Haywards Heath.

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