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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)

Milton Keynes on Sunday

Fraud cop faces axe after CSA case

A DETECTIVE working for the fraud squad has been convicted of deception. [X] is now facing the sack for lying to the Child Support Agency and benefiting by £2,115.

DC [X], 46, lied about his journeys to and from work in order to pay less maintenance. He was living in Leeds and working in Luton at the time but on some occasions he was able to live closer to the office, cutting down on the number of trips he told the CSA he was making.

Trying to discover from the CSA how his case had been assessed proved impossible and he sought the aid of his MP, Fabian Hamilton, who told Judge Zoe Smith how, in the past two years, he had seen the officer's physical and mental health deteriorate because of his problems with the CSA. Stone was ordered to carry out a 180-hour community punishment and pay £750 costs.

Bedfordshire Police Federation representative Gary Albert told the court that [X] would now face a disciplinary charge and was likely to lose his job.

Milton Keynes on Sunday

Fraud cop faces sack for lying to the CSA

DETECTIVE [X] is facing the sack for lying to the Child Support Agency while working for Bedfordshire's fraud squad. Det Con [X], 46, lied about his journeys to and from work and benefited to the tune of £2,115.

He was living in Leeds and working in Bedfordshire but on some occasions he was able to live closer to the office, cutting down on the number of trips he told the CSA he was making. The court heard that, following a divorce from his first wife, [X] paid her £420 through the CSA for their two children. But he was constantly being hit with demands for arrears, which went up to as much as £5,000, and, forced to pay extra, he was saddled with financial problems.

Milton Keynes on Sunday

CSA bleeds me dry, says traffic warden

TRAFFIC warden [X] claims he cannot afford to live after being forced to pay thousands of pounds a year in child maintenance.

Mr [X], who is divorced, has more than £300 a month taken from his Luton Borough Council wages to support his eight-year-old daughter Kirsty. After paying his monthly bills, he says, he has no money left.

He said: "I feel sorry for the policeman because I know exactly where he's coming from. "I've got no choice but to pay the money and of course I want to look after my daughter but the CSA don't care that I'm left penniless. "I'm living on the bread line. I literally have no money left after I've paid everything out. "I live in a little flat above a shop in Bury Park. I don't feel like I lead a normal life. "Even though I work hard in a very tough, demanding, full-time job, I've got nothing to show for it at the end of the month."


A model example of single motherhood?

Liz Hurley won't be your usual unwed mum, but in paternity and maintenance issues she will have to make her case in law like anyone else, says Penny Lewis

In this increasingly fractured society, the model and actress Liz Hurley is not alone in facing motherhood outside the traditional nuclear family. The tabloids have dined out on the seductive story of the British beauty bedded by an American playboy millionaire, Steve Bing. Miss Hurley claims she became pregnant during the couple's apparently short liaison. Now she must make her case in law like any other single mother.

The immediate task facing the mother is establishing paternity. Fortunately for Hurley, Bing has agreed to a DNA test, an almost infallible means of resolving this issue.

The Child Support Agency (CSA), the government body responsible for assessing, collecting and enforcing child maintenance, says most fathers confirm paternity when asked. In disputed cases the CSA offers discount DNA tests, with the cost refunded if results prove negative. Robin Spon-Smith, a barrister based at London family law chambers, 1 Mitre Court, says where paternity is in doubt "the court can make a direction for blood testing but the father cannot be compelled to comply. However, adverse inferences can be drawn in these circumstances".

If fatherhood is established the man will, irrespective of the brevity of his relationship with the mother, incur shared liability for the child's upbringing. This rule applies even if pregnancy occurred by "entrapment". "No protestations that the woman said that she had taken precautions will let the man off the financial hook," says Neil Russell, a matrimonial solicitor with Westminster firm BD Laddie. Russell says "proving that someone had lied would be difficult". Effectively, courts are likely to be influenced by the fact that no contraception is foolproof. Moreover, even if the man did not intend to impregnate his partner, in performing sexual congress, he assumed a risk of this happening.

Artificial insemination or test tube babies where the donor is a third party leave the long-term partner or husband responsible for their offspring as if the baby had been conceived naturally. Anonymous donors, though, owe no financial obligations to child or mother.

Spon-Smith says that in cases involving financial support for children "the most important question is, 'Where is the father?'" Significantly, the CSA only has jurisdiction where the child, person with care and absent parent are all habitually resident in the UK. Accordingly, if a father lives in the US, proceedings may need to be commenced against him to secure maintenance. These could take place in America or here under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. This "provides a financial regime for children of unmarried parents". Although there is no financial ceiling, Spon-Smith regards domestic awards as ungenerous compared with the US as they reflect only the financial needs of the child in its minority.

Russell adds that, except in contested divorce cases, the CSA will be the mainstay of financial support for parents of middle to low income brackets. It allows for basic expenses, not a "Rolls-Royce lifestyle". For the more affluent parent who can afford a luxurious standard of living, it is worth applying for extra support through the courts under the Children Act 1989. This can be used to fund private education as well as capital, lump sum and property adjustment orders.

Russell, accordingly, recommends that "women who are planning to have children are better off being married than living under the misapprehension that as an unmarried partner you will be properly provided for if the relationship breaks down".

(Birmingham) Evening Mail

Child support groups scoops award

The customer service team at the Dudley centre of the Child Support Agency has won a Charter Mark. The Charter Mark is a government award scheme which rewards improvement in public services.

The Dudley centre excelled because of the improvement it made in dealing with customer complaints. Janis Crook, Area Director for the Midlands Business Unit, said "I'm delighted at the sucess of the Midlands Business nit Customer Services Team who have joined the client helpline in achieving this award".


In the names of the fathers
Easier DNA testing could lead to more paternity disputes

Ann Northover, a solicitor with the Mayfair law firm Gordon Dadds

Advances in DNA-testing techniques to establish paternity, and easier access for the general public to such tests, are fast producing a number of new legal situations. There have been several recent significant changes in legislation affecting the family, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which states that a child, where possible, has a right to know his or her parents), producing a potentially explosive cocktail.

In a recent case (17 October, 2001), a 39-year-old Welsh man, [X], is to receive a refund of £30,000 in maintenance, plus interest, from the Child Support Agency (CSA). For seven years he had paid maintenance for a child he had never met, but thought was his. He then underwent a DNA paternity test through the court, and found he was not the father. The parties had only had a brief affair.

In certain circumstances, the CSA is allowed to presume parentage and make an assessment against the presumed father, even if he does not accept that the child is his. A "parent" is defined in child-support legislation as a person who is, in law, the mother or father of the child, which includes adoptive parents but, importantly, excludes step-parents. The circumstances allowing such a presumption have just been extended. This could lead to more assessments being made, and to more "mistakes", which the alleged fathers will undoubtedly dispute. If a man is named on the birth certificate or refuses to undergo a DNA test, it can now be automatically presumed that he is the father.

So, how can a putative father obtain a DNA test? The correct approach is to seek a court order for sampling. An important recent change in the law now allows the courts to override the objection of the parent with care and control (usually the mother), provided that a DNA test is in the best interests of the child.

Perhaps more fathers will be tempted to obtain DNA tests without making a court application, but by trying a little self-help instead. This is frowned on by the courts, but it is already simple to buy home kits or obtain DNA sampling services via the internet. Testing is now quicker and easier, as DNA can be examined from not only blood, but also from hair follicles and body fluids. Surreptitious tests are being made from perhaps a few hairs taken from a child's jumper. This testing relies on samples only from the child and the alleged father. Formal testing usually requires all three individuals, including the mother, to be tested. Such a DIY test is often the precursor to an application to the court, although evidence obtained by the use of a kit, undertaken without a medical practitioner or the approval of the parent with care and control, is unlikely to carry any weight with the court.

Whatever the motive, it seems likely that we will see a rise in applications for DNA testing. And besides demand from "fathers", there may also be demand from children – or adults – who want to discover their true parents, in the same way that an adopted child wishes to know his or her roots.

The Independent

Is it possible to have a paternity test done?

Dr Fred Kavalier: A Question of Health

Is it possible to have a paternity test done without going through a solicitor or the Child Support Agency? I want to discover who is the father of my son.

Paternity tests based on DNA technology are very accurate and can be done on a tiny sample of blood. It is essential to have a sample from both the child and the presumed father. Commercial laboratories will perform these tests, and you need not involve the CSA of a solicitor. The Department of Health has published a code of practice for labs. The biggest lab providing this service is Cellmark Diagnostics (01235 528 000).

The Guardian

CSA reforms will bring chaos, claim Lib Dems

Lucy Ward, political correspondent

The child support agency will descend into "chaos and confusion" under reforms to child support payments due to come into force next month, the government was warned yesterday. The wholesale shake-up of the formula for calculating the payments, which the government argues will simplify the much criticised existing arrangements and so increase the numbers of parents paying, will lead to a two tier system and prompt thousands of appeals, the Liberal Democrats claimed.

The appeals service serving the CSA has acknowledged it expects "a significant increase" in the number of appeals over child support, potentially totalling as many as two million mothers and fathers who have abided by the current arrangements.

Government estimates obtained by the Lib Dem work and pensions spokesman, Steve Webb, show that two thirds of working parents living away from their children - usually fathers - are expected to pay less under the reforms, leaving mothers with less financial support from former partners. Meanwhile, phasing in over around a year of the new maintenance formula would create a system of "winners and losers" in which fathers in similar circumstances were paying potentially dramatically different sums, he said.

The Liberal Democrats yesterday renewed calls for the CSA to be abolished, highlighting further figures showing that the agency delivers on average only £5 maintenance per week per child, of which the Treasury takes back a third from mothers on benefits. The party argues that, at an annual cost of £250m, with only half of eligible parents paying the correct amount and over a quarter paying nothing, the CSA is unable to enforce collection and is unlikely to improve under the new arrangements.


Child Support Agency reforms delayed

Tough new penalties for fathers who fail to pay maintenance are to be delayed, Work and Pensions Secretary Alistair Darling told MPs.

The measures, intended to combine a simpler Child Support Agency system with sterner sentences for parents, were due to come into effect in April 2002.

But in a statement to the Commons, Mr Darling said testing of the new Child Support computer system, built by EDS, was not yet complete.

Mr Darling said the delay was "frustrating" and "regrettable", but insisted it was important to get the IT right and not to take a chance on a system needed to support parents and children.

Shadow Works and Pensions Secretary David Willetts said the delay would leave families "in limbo".

He claimed the statement was only a delaying mechanism for a "desperately important" debate on the deployment of British troops to Afghanistan and a way for Tony Blair to avoid staying in the House of Commons for that debate. "The longer the gap between Prime Minister's questions and the debate, the easier it is for them to stay away," he said.

But Mr Darling said he was not prepared to put families through the same chaos that descended in 1993 when the CSA was created and its computer system collapsed because it was not ready.

He told the Commons that while he wanted to see the new IT system in place "as soon as possible" he would not proceed until he was satisfied that it was "working to the standards I expect".

"In my view, until the testing process is complete, I will not have the assurance I need to authorise the start of the new system," said Mr Darling.

"I have therefore decided to defer the planned start date. The new system will only be implemented when the supporting IT is operating effectively."

Mr Darling insisted: "There was a choice - I could have taken a chance, but that meant taking a chance on the support for children and parents.

"In my judgment, it is better to take time needed to get it right than repeat the mistakes made in 1993."


IT chaos halts CSA reform

Reform of the child support agency has been delayed to allow more time to test new computer systems, the work and pensions secretary, Alistair Darling, announced in the Commons today.

Mr Darling conceded that the delay was "frustrating and regrettable" but said he was not prepared to take a chance on support for children.

"I know that many parents are anxious to see the changes introduced as soon as possible but I judged that the risk of proceeding before testing was complete was unacceptable," he said in a statement.

Mr Darling was unable to give a revised date for the changes, which were due to take effect at the end of April, but promised to keep MPs updated on progress.

Tories said the delay was "serious" and many families would be "left in limbo" by the announcement.

The Independent

Overhaul of Child Support Agency is halted by IT glitch

By Nigel Morris, Political Correspondent

The planned overhaul of the Child Support Agency was postponed last night because of problems with the new computers that will handle claims.

The switch to a new, streamlined system of payments to lone parents was delayed just one month before the reform was to be launched.

In a Commons statement, Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said extra time was needed to test the CSA's new multimillion-pound computer network.

"The delay is frustrating and is regrettable," he said. "There was a choice. I could have taken a chance, but that meant taking a chance on support for children and for parents. That could not be justifited." He added: "I know many parents are anxious to see the changes introduced as soon as possible, but I judged the risk of proceeding before testing was complete was unacceptable."

The CSA computer system, which was due to come on stream on 22 April, is being developed by the American company EDS. Its introduction had already been delayed from last October.

The Work and Pensions Department was unable to confirm last night when the CSA computers would be ready to process fresh claims, but said the firm would not be paid until they were up and running.

The Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb described the delay as a "shambles". He said: "If this computer system can't cope with the trickle of new cases, then what chance is there that it will be able to handle the flood of existing cases once they are transferred? It is the latest in a long line of botched government IT projects."

Kate Green, director of the National Council for One Parent Families, said: "The delay is disappointing but the system has to be right so that children get a properly resourced service that actually delivers the maintenance they need, rather than a rushed, untested system which parents could have little confidence in."

The Times

CSA reforms delayed indefinitely

By Jill Sherman, Whitehall Editor

THE long-awaited reform of the Child Support Agency (CSA) has been delayed indefinitely owing to yet another Whitehall computer fiasco.
In a Commons statement Alistair Darling, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said that the reforms to simplify maintenance payments from absent parents would not go ahead next month as planned.

He said that there would inevitably be cost implications, although he said that the contract with EDS specified that the department would not pay for the system until it met the standards required. He said that the system was nearly completed but testing was not.

In 1999 the Government announced that the system would start operating by autumn 2001, but a few months later Mr Darling said that the reforms would be delayed till April 2002. Professor Steve Webb said: “This is the latest in a long line of botched government IT projects. We have been warning for over two years that this was a disaster waiting to happen.”

The Guardian

Child support - Tightening the net on absent fathers

Getting absent fathers, and occasionally mothers, to pay towards their children's upbringing has long been fraught with legal difficulties

Richard Colbey, a barrister

The Child Support Agency, established in 1993 and about to be overhauled again, has become one of the most derided of government agencies.

In 1995 there were reforms that reduced the amount that many absent fathers would have to pay. But these were complex and still produced results many claimed were anomalous, so the law has been changed again with effect from next month. At first, only new applications will be affected, but existing orders will gradually be brought into line.

One anomaly that remains is that the parties cannot agree to prevent the CSA becoming involved when they settle their finances after divorce. Not even a court order can have that effect. The purpose of the provision may be to prevent over-bearing fathers from making mothers agree to too little, particularly where the real beneficiary of any child support would be the DSS, but it causes many uncertainties.

Catherine Aherne, a barrister specialising in high value divorce settlements, explains: "Often the parties and their lawyers have spent a lot of time negotiating a precise settlement that seems fair to everyone. This may be fine tuned to produce tax advantages. Everybody is aware of the orders the CSA can make and should take them into account in dividing up the assets and agreeing maintenance. If an application is subsequently made to the CSA that agreement is distorted, and may have to be expensively re-negotiated."

When Graham Jenkins (not his real name) divorced his wife Cathy in 1999 he fell into this trap. At the time he was earning £80,000 as a software engineer and had about £500,000 saved up. However, they both felt that Graham's income might fall dramatically if the "dotcom" boom collapsed. He agreed to give Cathy all but £25,000 of his savings on the informal understanding she would invest it to produce an income so she would have enough to support the children, then aged eight, five and three, adequately if he did lose his job. In exchange she agreed not to seek any further maintenance for herself or the children. In fact, Graham's career has marched on and he now earns around £120,000. He voluntarily gives Cathy £1,000 per month, but knows the CSA could order him to pay double that, if she applied. He says: "In one sense I couldn't complain if I had to pay more towards my kids, but they and Cathy are well provided for on the basis of what we agreed, and I would feel cheated if she went behind it."


Essex man's identity mixed up with convicted murderer

By Chris Dearden, Thurrock Reporter

Andrew Barry Palmer is 36 and a Compurer Support Analyst from East Tilbury in Essex. He does not have any children, which is why he was surprised to receive a statement from the Child Support Agency in January this year. It told him about a 17-year-old son he had fathered with a woman he has never met.

"At first I thought it might be a joke", he said. But as he investigated further, he uncovered an identity mixup which went back over 15 years, and had led to three government agencies thinking he was the same person as a man serving life for murder. A few days and several phone calls later, a man from the CSA rang back to tell Andy Palmer he was not the child's father.

But Andy Palmer says there are still many unanswered questions, such as why the other Andrew Palmer did not get a National Insurance Number when he was 16. The Metropolitan Police have been called in to check the true identity of the man in prison. His MP, Andrew Mackinlay, has been working on the case and lobbying the Government for answers. Mr Mackinlay said "the case shows a weakness in the Government's record keeping. The fact it can go on for so long shows how new technology isn't foolproof, and indeed throws up its own new problems."

Milton Keynes on Sunday

CSA says sorry for the mistake

THE Child Support Agency has admitted a mistake which led to a mother-of-three going without maintenance from the husband who abandoned her over two years ago.

[X] has been surviving on income support since [Y] walked out of the family home leaving her to provide for their three children. [X], from Westminster Gardens, Houghton Regis, was forced to give up her job as a secretary in an estate agent while Mr [Y] moved in with a new partner and carried on earning more than £20,000 per year as a production operator at IBC in Luton.

Now the CSA has apologised and sent her £105 compensation while they fast-track her claim. Mrs [X], 34, said: "I'm angry and bitter. The CSA is a waste of space. I've been waiting for two years for some money which it was their job to get for me. "Apart from the fact that my children have suffered as a result, there's a wider issue at stake because taxpayers have been subsidising me through income support when it should have been my husband.

Commenting on the compensation payment which arrived last week she said: "It's an insult, though you can't put a price on the stress the CSA has caused me for the past two years."

The Guardian

Why men shouldn't get trapped by baby-hungry women

Catherine Bennett

But what of high-achieving men? Can they have it all? Or if not, the best bits? Who is to show them how to avoid the wrong turnings and immature lack of foresight that can lead so easily to lifelong regrets, public shame, fatal disease, or all three at the same time? In my forthcoming book, Woman Terror, I hope to save the current generation of young men from making the mistakes of their predecessors, many of whom ended up on a joyless treadmill, already supporting a wife and children in their 20s only to endure a mid-life crisis, usually accompanied by adultery, a new family and divorce proceedings in their 40s, followed in a tragically high number of cases by undiagnosed heart disease (often exacerbated by over-dependence on alcohol and Viagra), an early death and, in some especially sad cases, a pauper's grave, all their money having been siphoned away by a succession of wives and children. And that's the good news. The bad news is that as more and more women engage in Sylvia Ann Hewlett's backward mapping, these trends can only get worse.

What I shall be telling men, very much as Sylvia Ann urged women in the Times this week, is "do yourself a favour. If you are a twentysomething-year-old, try to figure out what you want in your 40s, and try and be intentional about it."

Don't just drift into commitment, then find yourself, like Giles, a classic case of doing it too soon, as a father of eight, paying for everything from school fees to his wife's Botox injections at an age when he hadn't even expected to start a family. I'm not saying don't have a child. I'm saying why bother even thinking about it until you're at least 35? Or older. It's not as if you have to reproduce with a high-achieving woman of your own generation. Indeed, at the age of 35 such a choice would be biologically perverse. Your sperm should still be in tip-top condition.

So what is Woman Terror? It is the feeling described by one of my case studies, Bert, who found himself a father and married in his 20s to a woman who, he now realises, was only interested in him because she was suffering from baby hunger and had reached a critical point in her backward mapping. He believes her unplanned pregnancy, six months into their relationship, was no accident. "I'd expected to be golfing and having meaningless sexual relationships until well into my 30s, or even 40s," he says. Now a ravaged father of six who looks a decade older than his 37 years, Bert has recently suffered from disfiguring boils and high blood pressure, and has been told to cut down on his workload. "But I can't," he says, helplessly. "I'm the breadwinner and there's no way out. If we divorce, she'll get the house. And anyway, I'd just get trapped again. There are so many desperate twentysomething women out there. I've cried myself to sleep for months."

I asked Bert what his advice was for a 25-year-old man and he said: "For God's sake, don't get hitched and have kids. Not until you're at least 40." And Bob is not alone. The statistics are terrifying. A US study found that 80% of married ultra-achievers wish they had more time for pets or hobbies. In England, 93% of men aged under 75 say they would like to visit a lap-dancing club, just to see what it was like, but are scared that their wives would find out.

For men such as Bert and Giles my book comes too late. For younger men with a high level of Woman Terror, a vasectomy may be advisable, though not necessarily reversible. And for the rest? Give urgent priority to avoiding potential partners. This project deserves special attention during your 20s, when your achieving women contemporaries are likely to be at their most cunning. But there are no easy answers. For men who try to have it all, the result - in at least 75% of cases, according to new US research - will be drudgery, disappointment and eternal damnation. Sorry!

Sunday Times

Sperm hunters go it alone

Tessa Mayes

One result of baby hunger is an increasing number of women who decide to go it alone. They might regard themselves as liberated women opting for single parenthood but to men they are sperm hunters — little better than thieves.

Lauren, 34, is a lawyer with an eight-year-old son conceived without the knowledge of Ben, the biological father. “I met him at a party and the chemistry was quite amazing,” she said. “Ben has blue eyes and a Bob Dylan-type face, just gorgeous.” The couple had a casual relationship for three years but Lauren knew she would not have a life with Ben. “I wanted to be connected to him, to have a child like him but without his bad bits,” she said. “I knew I could handle being a single mum so I stopped taking the pill.” Ben does not know he has a child. “Men like Ben are victims of women’s choices, it’s true,” she said. “But I didn’t want to share my life with Ben just because he’d fathered my child.”

On the face of it, the idea of “sperm hunting” does not make sense. It is women who decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term — whatever the circumstances surrounding the conception. But there is a difference between accidental and intentional pregnancy sex. It does seem unfair for men to pay child maintenance after a birth over which they had no control. No wonder some men feel exploited when nobody asks what they want. Bizarrely, men have been accused for years of reneging on their responsibilities by leaving women at the first sight of a baby wipe. Now some women positively want them to disappear.

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Page last updated: 28 November, 2005 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003