2 Commentary on Chapter Seven of the CSA White Paper
2.1 Justification for criticising the White Paper
The objectives of the White Paper are accepted. Both parents must satisfy
their financial responsibilities to their children, and must not leave
the children to be brought up in poverty or hand the whole task to the
taxpayer. The system that administers this must be efficient and effective,
Criticism here of the White Paper is not criticism of these objectives.
It is criticism of the White Paper's failure to address these objectives
fairly, or at all.
The purpose of this section is to show by commentary that the White Paper
fails to identify a sensible, rational, fair shared-care formula. (All
the criticisms here are catered for by the fair shared-care formula described
This section deals first with the general formula for shared-care, for
example where the caring proportions are perhaps 2 nights to 5 nights
per week. In some cases, the White Paper's own statements contradict its
Then it deals with the special case of exactly equal shared-care. Here
the White Paper defies rational analysis, but an attempt is made.
All of the quotes from the White Paper are from Chapter Seven: "Contact
and shared care". Quotes and section numbers are shown thus:
(Examples are sometimes given in which a parent has £233 net income
per week. This is simply a convenient quantity where the assessment for
one child is £35 per week, or £5 per day).
2.2 Summary of the issues
||With a sensible formula, in all cases it ought to be possible to
match the behaviour of the formula with the need to pay for the children.
||Instead, one issue is that while the White Paper makes some sensible
statements about what it is trying to do, it often follows these with
non-sequiturs. If those sensible statements were followed to their
logical conclusion they would actually lead to policies which were
different, even opposite, to those proposed.
||One example out of many: the White Paper says "the
cost of keeping a child is not necessarily greatly reduced if the
child spends several nights away from home". In other words the
greatest part of the cost is caring at all, then the cost varies by
a smaller amount. So how can it justify reducing the NRP's assessment
by just one-seventh for the first night of care? Or if the NRP is
on benefits, by restoring the NRP to benefit level, without any thought
of how an NRP on benefits can afford to care for children even for
one night per week without extra help?
||When a parent cares directly for a child, there are two separate
consequences: that parent has extra costs; and the other parent has
fewer costs. Both must be taken into account, but this proposal doesn't
do that. All it is really doing is recognising the reduced cost to
the PWC because someone else has the child for a time. It doesn't
recognise the increased cost to the NRP, which neither the PWC nor
the taxpayer help with. (The NRP is truly abandoned while caring for
|Obviously, the White Paper only reached
the above conclusions by considering just the cost to the PWC and
not to the NRP.
||Another issue is that the White Paper is rightly keen to reduce
benefit spend, but then doesn't follow through by identifying who,
if anyone, is actually on benefits. It assumes that the PWC is on
benefits and the NRP is earning, and tries to reduce benefit spend
for that case.
||But neither of these assumption is generally true, and this misses
other opportunities for benefit saving while introducing a distortion
which proves massively unfair where one or both of these assumptions
||Finally, the White Paper tends to look backwards at the nature of
post-separation families up to now, instead of looking forward to
the nature in (say) the 10 years after the new scheme is implemented.
It also puts too much emphasis on the condition immediately after
separation, and not enough on how that family changes months or years
The target should be "two parents earning and sharing care",
with a CSA formula to match, not "mother on benefits, absent
father". The latter will still occur, but is catered for satisfactorily
anyway with a fair shared-care formula.