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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)

1999-04-16
BBC

Will men take the pill?

The female pill revolutionised contraception in the 60s - will the male equivalent do the same?

(On-line debate).

Contraception is often regarded as a female responsibility, but with the male pill successfully emerging from scientific trials, all this could change. A pill/patch combination method of contraception for men has been developed by three UK researchers. Morton Hair, Kay Kitteridge and Fred Wu carried out trials on 23 men, who took a progesterone hormone pill, while wearing a body patch containing the sex hormone testosterone. The volunteers were divided into three different groups, receiving low, medium and high levels of the progesterone pill. Most of the men in the high and medium groups showed no active sperm after three months. When they stopped taking the pill their sperm counts gradually returned to normal. The method has still to be perfected, but Dr Wu believes that this work will lead to a more acceptable method of male contraception.

But given the opportunity, will men actually take the pill? Or more to the point, will women trust them to?

(The debate is snipped - see the link on the left. The debate mostly missed the point. Many men will take the pill, rather than risk up to 18 years payments via the CSA! See a discussion about this topic).

1999-04-22
Herald

Child support case for court in Europe

by ROSEMARY FREE

(This is the topic of an explanation of the law, and also of a case study showing how silly it is).

A father who shares joint custody of his son with his ex-wife is bidding to make legal history when he takes the Child Support Agency to the European Court. Mr Mark Cook, from Cupar in Fife, is being forced to pay £175 a month in child maintenance despite the fact he looks after 13-year-old Russell on alternate weeks with his former wife, Caroline. He claimed yesterday he had been labelled an absent father by the agency because his ex-wife retained their son's child benefit book. The bid for a ruling by the European Court has been made after the Fife father exhausted all the options available to him under the British legal system. "My main reason is I hope it never happens to anyone else," said Mr Cook. "All I want is parity. For someone to decide I am an absent parent just because I am not in receipt of child benefit is absolutely preposterous. He added: "The CSA have admitted they got it wrong but can't do anything because of the legislatory framework which prevents them from looking into individual cases."

"What is even more ludicrous is that the CSA has confirmed to Mr Cook that if he had two children and he and his wife shared custody of both, then the Secretary of State would have decided each parent should receive benefit for one child and there would then be no claim for child maintenance against Mr Cook.

1999-04-30
The Mirror

(From NACSA BOTD)

A father killed himself after he was wrongly told he’d have to pay more to the CSA, an inquest heard yesterday. [X}, 39, gassed himself in his car. But ten days after his death a letter to him from the CSA revealed that a mistake had been made. He had actually been overcharged by £700. "He said he was having a problem financially with the amount of money the CSA were taking", his father [Y] said.... "After his death his employer received a letter from the CSA saying they had made a mistake to the tune of £700".

Mid Hants coroner Grahame Short said: "I don’t think we will ever know for sure why he took his own life. "I think it was a combination of his inability to break his drug habit, the financial pressures he found mounting against him and in particular the problems with the CSA."

1999-05-19
The Times

FAMILY DIVISION

Responsibility order same as paternity finding

Regina v Secretary of State for Social Services, Ex parte W
Before Mr Justice Johnson

Where a parental responsibility order had been made on grounds unrelated to paternity, under section 4(1)(a) of the Children Act 1989, that order satisfied the requirement of a finding or adjudication of paternity, under case F of section 26(2) of the Child Support Act 1991. Mr Justice Johnson so held in the Family Division when allowing an application for judicial review of the decision of the Secretary of State for Social Services on November 13, 1997 not to make a maintenance assessment order.

The mother and Mr S, the putative father of her two daughters, had separated in 1989. Mr S applied for a parental responsibility order, which was made in his favour, by consent, on July 8, 1994, by District Judge Jolly. When applying for the order, Mr S was aware of the interest of the Child Support Agency. Mr S then returned a completed form to the agency, in such a way as to indicate that he denied paternity of the two children.

1999-05-26
Reader's Digest

When Dad Walks Away

By David Moller and Simon Hemelryk

"My ex has got only one child living with her and I've got one with me, so why should I pay maintenance?" asks [X] from Dudley, West Midlands, who won £90,000 on the lottery last year. He has resisted all attempts by the Government's Child Support Agency (CSA) to persuade him to support his 13-year-old son, who lives with his former wife.

The financial cost of deadbeat dads has been stupendous. There are more than 1.8 million children who do not receive a penny in maintenance from their non-resident parents. The resulting bill for the taxpayer (including child benefit) has zoomed from £2 billion per year in 1979 to a staggering £10.4 billion last year. The CSA was set up in 1993 in an attempt to make absent parents, usually fathers, help pay for the maintenance of their children. Unfortunately, rather than chasing those making no contributions at all to their children's upkeep, it tended to target sitting-duck fathers who had already achieved "clean-break" maintenance agreements with their former partners. The CSA has also been palpably weak on enforcement. Some 30 per cent of those it has assessed are still paying no maintenance, so a total of £1 billion is now owed to the agency.

The self-employed have been particularly difficult to pin down for payments. Mrs [Y] of Freethorpe, Norfolk, had an eight-year battle through the courts and the CSA before her former husband was finally packed off to prison for six weeks for failing to pay some £15,000 maintenance. "He used every trick in the book to dodge his responsibilities to me and our two young sons," she says. "Because of the lack of co-ordination between the Benefits Agency, CSA and Inland Revenue, it seems to be easier for husbands to evade their family obligations than to get out of a hire-purchase agreement."

Meanwhile, fathers who bitterly resist the CSA's very existence have formed several groups to sabotage its work. One, the Network Against the Child Support Act (NACSA), has even set up an Internet site to inform absent fathers on how best to defraud the state. A popular ploy is to get the mother to refuse to divulge the identity of a child's father by falsely claiming that she fears his retaliatory violence. "Your ex is the best friend you have," NACSA brightly informs fathers who are seeking to evade payments. "She may be only too delighted to dump the CSA and come to a private agreement about child maintenance." Why are former partners willing to collude? Because they know that the benefits system will make good the shortfall in maintenance that errant fathers should be paying to the CSA. Since 1995, claims for "good cause" exemptions have doubled to an annual 230,221, of which some 31,000 are accepted.

In the end, it is the country's taxpayers who pick up the tab. But the real losers, of course, are the children. "Parents are crucial to their children's self-esteem," concludes Adrienne Katz, who recently co-ordinated Leading Lads, an Oxford University study of more than 1,400 teenage boys. "It is not enough for the father simply to be present," she adds. "He has to give a lead. Boys, in particular, like rules and boundaries." Her research showed that those whose fathers spent time listening to them and being involved were more likely to grow up to be confident, successful adults.

1999-06-02
Guardian

Child support

Family values

How do other EU countries cope with paying the costs of children of absent partners?

Jill Eckersley reports on ideas worth looking at

Most EU countries apart from Britain have schemes to give reliable income for single parents, according to a report published today. It comes as the government is planning extensive reforms to the child support agency (CAS), and is expected to publish a white paper soon. Based on a 13-month study by Anne Corden of York University's social policy research unit, the report looks at how child maintenance is assessed and collected in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK. EU countries share common problems of rising divorce rates, increasing lone parenthood and spiralling social security budgets. "We hope that this report will contribute to the debate," says author Corden. "We are not suggesting that the UK should do things the way other countries do, but we can learn from the way they approach the issues and how successful they are at dealing with them. "Most child maintenance schemes were developed against a background of 'earning fathers'. Increasingly, unemployed men and men on low earnings are expected to make their incomes stretch over two households. All over Europe, more fluid family structures and re-constituted families are putting a strain on child support systems."

One major difference between the UK and the other countries studied, except the Netherlands, is that the CSA has no "'advance maintenance scheme". In most of the rest of the EU, parents with care (usually mothers) can apply to have at least part of their child maintenance paid by the state, which then recovers the money from the absent parent. Another major difference is the cut-off point for child support. In Austria, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands it is payable right through further education. The report also found that the issue of domestic violence was rarely part of the debate in other EU countries. In Britain, it's a point that is often raised by groups campaigning for single parents and is frequently quoted as a reason for mothers' reluctance to claim maintenance through the CSA. "Denmark appears to have the least problematic scheme," says Corden. "It delivers relatively low amounts of child maintenance, but this doesn't attract criticism because of the economic and social structures of the country." The Danish scheme works because it's simple to understand, locally administered, long established, and because Denmark is a country with a universalist welfare state which supports all families, where mothers are expected to do paid work and where affordable childcare enables them to do so.

1999-06-03
BBC

Single mothers slam CSA reforms

Many single mothers on benefits do not co-operate with the CSA

Proposals to reform the Child Support Act could increase violence against women and children, say single mothers' groups. They are holding a press conference on Thursday to highlight their concerns and say research shows that one in four women has experienced domestic violence. But the Single Mothers' Self-Defence group, a network of mothers in the London and Manchester area, says many of these may have been victims of domestic violence. It says its views are supported by more than 100 women's organisations in the UK. Kim Sparrow, a spokeswoman for the group, said: "We want to publicise the drastic effects the proposals will have on single mothers and children's safety. "The reforms are trying to make it easier for fathers to have access as a pay-off for coming up with money.

One of the main aims of the reforms is to encourage both parents to play a role in raising their children. Its Green Paper states: "Parents may divorce each other, but they should never divorce their children."

1999-06-14
Electronic Telegraph

Boy fathers must pay for child when they get first job

By George Jones, Political Editor

TEENAGE boys who get girls pregnant will have to pay child maintenance when they start work, under Government plans to be unveiled today to halve the number of teenage pregnancies by 2010. The Downing Street social exclusion unit is proposing that teenagers should be warned of the "lifetime" commitment involved in fathering a child. Government sources said that boys who fathered a child at 15 should no longer be able to escape their responsibilities. The Child Support Agency would be alerted and would seek to keep track of schoolboy fathers so that when they started earning money they would have to make maintenance payments.

1999-06-14
Express

DRIVING BAN ON ABSENT FATHERS

BY SARAH WOMACK AND RACHEL ELLIS

FATHERS who fail to pay child maintenance will lose their driving licences in a crackdown on teenage pregnancies. The Child Support Agency will be given tough new powers to confiscate licences from those who regularly miss payments, The Express has learned. A senior Whitehall source said: "We are introducing a reality check on the 'Jack the lad' culture. The message from the CSA is quite simply that you may be, say, 15, but sex comes at a price - one reckless Saturday night might mean paying up for the next 16 years." There will also be a £10million advertising campaign. Boys will be told that the CSA will pursue them for cash as soon as they reach working age.

1999-06-14
BBC

Boys face teen pregnancy crackdown

Boys who father children are to be brought face to face with the consequences of unprotected sex as part of a £60m programme to tackle teenage pregnancy. Mr Blair said the Child Support Agency reforms were geared towards ensuring that boys who fathered children were tracked down and forced to pay towards maintenance. It is thought that just 15% of teenage mothers currently receive maintenance from their fathers.

1999-06-14
BBC

Labour chooses 'Third Way' on teen pregnancy

The BBC's Social Affairs Editor Niall Dickson analyses the implications of the social exclusion unit's report on teenage pregnancies

British teenagers are more likely to get pregnant than their European counterparts. Caught between a strong liberal lobby anxious to promote safer sex and a strong traditional lobby anxious to discourage promiscuity among the young, the government has once again sought to find a 'third way'. Its measures are designed to encourage young people to meet their responsibilities while avoiding the moralising and punitive tone which is felt to alienate many young people. So the New Labour refrain of 'responsibility' will be heard loud and clear with a message directed at boys as much girls. The Child Support Agency will be warning boys that the days when they could father children and escape the financial consequences are numbered.

1999-06-15
The Times

Blair launches £60m plan to cut teen births

BY JILL SHERMAN, WHITEHALL EDITOR

TONY BLAIR yesterday unveiled a £60 million plan to halve the rate of teenage pregnancies in Britain, including proposals to set up hostels for young mothers. The measures, outlined in a report from the Government's Social Exclusion Unit, are part of a programme to inform young girls and particularly boys about the consequences of early sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted diseases, and the practical and financial burdens of early parenthood.

Teenage fathers: young fathers will be forced to pay for their children as soon as they start a job. The Child Support Agency will, as a priority, ensure that teengage fathers are chased up to pay for the care of babies, to hammer home the financial penalty of young parenthood. Even those without a job will have to pay £5 a week.

Teenage Pregnancy - Report from the Social Exclusion Unit (The Publications Centre, PO Box 276, London SW85DT; £15)

1999-06-16
The Times

'Anybody who believes that teenagers will hold back from sex because it might cost them a fiver should have got out more when they were young'

Mick Hume

(The author is Editor of LM magazine).

Despite being abandoned by its own single parent, Peter Mandelson, the Government's Social Exclusion Unit appears to be thriving. This week the Prime Minister himself launched an SEU report proposing £60 million-worth of new measures designed to halve the number of teenage pregnancies within ten years. The tune sounds familiar, but the distinctive new Labour twist is to turn the heat on young, errant fathers as well as teenage single mothers. The idea appears to be that boys and young men could be made to stop getting girls pregnant, if only they knew that they would be forced to pay child support as soon as they start work. Even teenagers on benefits will have to pay a fiver. Just as young people enjoy a lower minimum wage, so wages of their sin are to be set at a £5-a-week fine.

These proposals mark a new triumph of political correctness over common sense. Who really believes that threatening to impoverish young men with a tax on unsafe sex will act as an effective contraceptive? And what possible benefit can it be to a young mother to make her dependent on getting a (very) few quid from a feckless former boyfriend? The intention cannot be to help girls, but to punish naughty boys - something spelt out by the floated proposal (imported, like so much of this, from America) to allow the Child Support Agency to confiscate the driving licences of those who fail to pay. As one Whitehall source put it: "The message from the CSA is quite simply that you may be, say, 15, but sex comes at a price - one reckless Saturday night might mean paying for the next 16 years." Or, as the nuns used to say to convent girls: "A moment of pleasure, a lifetime of regret."

The SEU emphasises that rates of teenage pregnancy in the United Kingdom are far higher than, say, those in The Netherlands. What such comparisons do not reveal is that the rates of teenage sexual activity in both countries are about the same. Dutch teenagers simply have easier access to better contraceptive services.

1999-06-20
Sunday Times

Judge refuses to pay child maintenance

by Paul Nuki and Chris Dignan

A JUDGE who specialises in family law is facing a financial assessment by the Child Support Agency (CSA) after refusing to pay maintenance for two of his
children. The case, thought to be the first to involve a senior member of the judiciary, will embarrass the legal fraternity, not least because the judge's former wife is a practising lawyer. Earlier this year she is understood to have asked the CSA to secure maintenance payments from [X] for her two youngest children.

"Since we separated in 1991 my ex-wife has never before this year sought maintenance from me for any of our four children for the simple reason that they continued to live with me and I continue to look after them," said [X], who believes the leaking of the information was designed to cause embarrassment. "There has been no change in the family circumstances and accordingly her claim to the CSA is misconceived. There is no question of her not 'properly receiving' child maintenance because she is not entitled to it."

1999-06-26
Press Association

JAIL THREAT FOR FATHERS WHO DON'T PAY MAINTENANCE

Absent fathers who fail to pay maintenance to their ex-wives could face jail under plans to be unveiled this week by the Government, it was reported tonight. Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling will reveal proposals to beef up the powers of the controversial Child Support Agency in a Government White Paper to be published this week. For the first time it will become a criminal offence for fathers to give false information about their earnings to the CSA.

In an article for the News of the World, Mr Darling said that although the CSA had a million children on its books, only about one-in-four saw any money from their absent parent.

1999-06-27
Independent On Sunday

CSA told: shape up or be privatised

By Rachel Sylvester, political editor

THE CHILD Support Agency will be privatised if it does not dramatically improve the collection of money from absent parents, under radical plans being drawn up by ministers. The Downing Street policy unit is working with officials from the Department of Social Security on proposals to sell off the entire organisation to the private sector if it does not meet tough new efficiency targets.

Although no mention is made of privatisation in the policy document, ministers are already examining detailed plans to sell off the agency if its operation does not improve in the public sector. Wholesale privatisation would go much further than ideas which have already been floated to contract out individual parts of the CSA, such as the collection services. Senior staff at the agency have already been consulted about the practical implications of the proposal. One option is to include the proposal in Labour's manifesto for the next election as a way of demonstrating the party's commitment to being radical on welfare. "It's on the agenda," one senior government source said. "It's been discussed at ministerial level and we wouldn't shy away from it if we could see that it was likely to operate better in the private sector. The White Paper sets out the next stage but privatisation is definitely an option after that." Whitehall sources privately admit that this week's reforms will make the organisation a far more "attractive proposition" for sale than it has been in the past. The plan follows a wide-ranging review of child support, which found fundamental problems in the workings of the controversial agency.

1999-06-27
Sunday Times

Non-paying fathers face jail

by Eben Black, Chief Political Correspondent

ABSENT fathers who fail to pay maintenance to their ex-wives face jail sentences under government reforms that could result in thousands of middle-class professionals having criminal records. For the first time it will become a criminal offence not to co-operate with the Child Support Agency (CSA) - the body set up to cut the welfare bill by clawing back cash from divorced and separated parents. Alistair Darling, the social security secretary, plans to announce the new powers in the Commons on Thursday.

Under current rules, it is only a civil offence to refuse to pay after an order is made by the agency. A persistent offender, however, can be jailed for failure to pay subsequent fines. The reforms mean that those who fail to pay or lie to the CSA can be dealt with immediately in the criminal courts which will be able to jail "deadbeat dads" for up to six months. In the eight years since the agency was created, fewer than 10 people have been jailed for failure to pay fines. Government sources hope that criminalising non-payers will act as a deterrent, but concede that the policy could see hundreds - or even thousands - of people sent to jail. Single parents on benefit have to tell the agency the name of the absent parent so that money can be demanded from him/her to ease benefit bills.

1999-06-27
Sunday Mirror

PAY UP OR GO TO JAIL, FATHERS TOLD

FATHERS who fail to pay towards the upkeep of their children will face jail under tough new laws. They will also have their driving licences seized and have to pay interest penalties on the money they owe. And it will be the first time driving bans have been imposed for non- motoring offences, aimed at young dads who see their car as a status symbol and others who use their vehicles to work in the black economy.

The agency will be streamlined; it can take three years to assess what a father should pay.

1999-06-27
Observer

Labour launches welfare offensive

The party claims Brussels apathy lost them the Euro elections, but a raft of reforms suggests otherwise

Patrick Wintour and Martin Bright

Ministers hope that a string of announcements on welfare reform this week will show that the socially excluded remain at the heart of the party's programme. Wednesday will see the most controversial reform of the lot - reform of the Child Support Agency. Electorally, the CSA is an explosive issue. By 2003, it is expected to be handling 1.2 million cases, affecting 2.4m parents. Blunkett admitted last week that it is the single most frequent issue in any MP's surgery. And little wonder. Speaking in advance of the White Paper, Darling admitted the CSA has never got off its knees since the fiasco of its launch eight years ago. He said: 'Fewer than 250,000 children are benefiting directly from maintenance that is paid; of those, only half are seeing all of the money that is due. The proportion of lone parents on income support receiving maintenance from the father of the child is exactly the same as it was eight years ago - 20 per cent of them.' The key reform will be to simplify the assessment so that most non-resident parents with earnings of more than £200 a week will have to pay 15 per cent of their income for one child. Currently CSA staff spend 90 per cent of their time on complex assessments and only 10 per cent on enforcement. This reform is intended to change that. But simplification comes with a price: a less flexible system may be less fair.

How will this play with the core vote? The Chancellor Gordon Brown, currently very active in the repoliticisation of Government, has ensured that 70 per cent of fathers will be charged less because of the percentage of income they are required to pay.

1999-06-27
Observer

Jail for fathers who won't pay

White Paper will unveil tough new powers for CSA as Ministers go on the offensive with welfare shake-up

Patrick Wintour, Political Editor

Fathers face the prospect of jail and automatic fines if they repeatedly refuse to co-operate with a streamlined Child Support Agency or continually delay making payments for their children. Tough new enforcement powers will form the centrepiece of a White Paper on Wednesday imposing wholesale reform on the CSA, one of the great administrative fiascos of the last Conservative government.

The CSA will also be given powers to impose flexible fines, of up to 25 per cent of unpaid maintenance bills. The Inland Revenue will also be allowed to pass on information about a father's income to the CSA. Darling said in future fathers would be required to pay 'every penny that is due'. The present system gave them the chance to give the CSA 'the runaround'. 'If you need 100 pieces of information, it is easy to volunteer the first 90, and then come back with the last 10 and say, ''by the way, the first 10 have changed''. That is what is happening at present.'

1999-06-27
Sunday Telegraph

CSA will spy on fathers who say they cannot pay

By Martin Bentham, Welfare Correspondent

UNDERCOVER inspectors will carry out "lifestyle checks" on absent fathers who fail to pay child maintenance, under a Government crackdown to be announced this week. Child Support Agency inspectors will keep watch on men's homes to monitor how they spend their time and money, and will have the power to enter their properties to examine financial records. The aim is to identify those who enjoy luxurious lifestyles but deliberately understate their wealth to minimise payments to their former partners. Ministers are convinced that such abuses are widespread, particularly among the self-employed, and are determined to eliminate them, ensuring that more money is chanelled to children. The inspectors, whose powers will be backed by the threat of £1,000 fines for fathers who fail to co-operate, will be announced on Thursday as part of a "root and branch" reform of the CSA which has become notorious for bureaucratic inefficiency since its formation six years ago.

The CSA was founded in 1993 but has been criticised repeatedly by MPs and the National Audit Office for processing cases too slowly, making mistakes in many of the bills it sends out, and even identifying the wrong fathers. Despite previous management overhauls and the replacement of two chief executives, one-third of assessments still take more than six months to complete.

1999-06-28
Electronic Telegraph

Labour aims reforms at the poor

By Jon Hibbs Political Correspondent

DAVID BLUNKETT yesterday acknowledged concerns that Labour was losing touch with traditional supporters ahead of a Government drive this week to promote policies that are intended to benefit the less well-off. Mr Blunkett labelled the Government's approach as "tough but tender", conceding that ordinary Labour supporters had not heard enough about the benefits they stood to gain from the package. He said: "These things tend to get lost in the morass of disagreement and division," welcoming in particular the proposals to beef up the powers of the CSA. Under plans drawn up by Alistair Darling, the Social Security Secretary, absent parents who fail to pay maintenance for their children would face a range of sanctions, from imprisonment and fines to the confiscation of driving licences.

1999-06-28
Guardian

Ministers talk tough on CSA plans

David Brindle, Social Services Correspondent

Ministers, fearing the government's changes to the child support agency which will cut most maintenance payments will be seen as a victory for "absent" fathers, are playing up the toughness of the reforms. Briefings ahead of a white paper, due on Thursday, have stressed the prospects of punitive sanctions, including jail, against men who fail to pay child maintenance for which they have been assessed. The reality of the reforms for most people, however, will be a less draconian system. The levels of maintenance payments will fall, from an average £38 a week for one child under the present CSA formula to £29, and up to 180,000 cases will no longer fall under the agency's remit.

A spokesman for the anti-CSA National Association for Child Support Action, said it was depressing to hear ministers using the terms that had been all too familiar under the last administration. "If the government showed it truly had the interests of children at heart... we would take its proposals more seriously."

1999-06-28
Express

Driving bans won't halt our deadbeat dads

By Mary Kenny

I met a black pastor the other day who talked to me about his popular Seventh Day Adventist church in the North of England. Oh yes, his community certainly were keen on family values and family worship. But he had to admit there was a problem with young males. "They will go around begetting numbers of children by different mothers," he lamented. "Perhaps," I said sentimentally, "they just love babies." "No, they don't love babies. They love women and they love sex!" he exclaimed. "And they can't be bothered to take responsibility for their kids." It was an enduring social and cultural problem, he said, and his community just had to do the best it could to teach these guys to change. The minister sometimes tried to get the mothers to pursue the menfolk through the Child Support Agency but quite often the young women didn't want to do that: it was a matter of pride. They wanted the men to care for them of their own accord, not through the coercion of a government agency.

The pastor had sketched out for me, with refreshing honesty, the simple outline of a problem which stretches across various cultures in Britain, white just as much as black. There are too many single, unsupported young mums in Britain; and there are too many "deadbeat dads" who scarper at the thought of paying for the children they have fathered. The CSA was set up with a view to redressing the problem of the fathers who won't pay. Will such draconian measures work? I doubt it very much. The bureaucracy involved could be Byzantine. The criminal justice is blurry: confiscating a driving licence for a non-motoring offence is bizarre and the State coercion aspect is not only unpleasant but impractical. If a father is sent to prison for not supporting his children, he is likely to be in even less of a position to do so.

Instead of devising endless new draconian measures for the CSA to implement, the Government should support and endorse marriage for the parents of young children. The Home Secretary should not make silly speeches about all forms of family arrangement being equal in the face of ample evidence to the contrary. Sex education lessons should point out that the best thing a man can do for the mother of his children is to marry her - even if the marriage is not successful in the end, it is better to give that commitment for a few years than not at all. The CSA is on a hiding to nothing in a society which gives marriage no special value (or financial benefits) because an economic goal cannot be reached without the social and cultural teaching which must support it.

1999-06-30
Guardian

The Question: Should fathers be jailed for refusing to pay child maintenance as was proposed last week?

Interviews by Joanna Moorhead

Jim Parton Chairman of Families Need Fathers

Of course fathers should pay child support, but send them to prison, and you're not doing anything to build any bridges: what you're likely to do is turn resentment into hatred, and what might be short-term anger into long-term bitterness.

Adrienne Burgess Author of Fatherhood Reclaimed (Vermillion)

You have to look at why fathers, if they're the non-resident parent, aren't paying up - and it's often because they see it as the only way of exercising some control in this situation. I'd never say that contact visits should be dependent on the provision of maintenance, but I think it's only fair to point out that while our society is putting a penalty on non-payment of maintenance, it isn't putting that penalty on non-provision of authorised contact visits.

Janet Smith Lone parent with a five-year-old daughter

I'm very angry that ex-husbands like mine can get away without paying money - he hasn't paid me a penny in five years. I've got order after order to make him pay, but he simply won't.... But prison: no. It's not the answer. Why doesn't the Child Support Agency take out advertisements in local papers, and tell the world about fathers who aren't meeting their obligations?

- Janet Smith's name has been changed for legal reasons.

Liz Sewell Head of Gingerbread, the lone parents' organisation

So many non-resident parents - and as we all know, that's mainly absent fathers - try to avoid paying maintenance that I think the time has come to use this sanction, and to send them to prison if they won't cough up.... My main concern, though, would be for the children involved; they've already had to put up with an acrimonious home life, and now they're going to have a parent in prison.

Richard Woolfson Psychologist and author of From Birth To Starting School

The repercussions for a child of seeing his father put in jail because he hasn't been able to provide for his mum will be profound. The child will blame their mother (why didn't she get a job?) and themselves for the father being in prison (did I really need those trainers?).

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