Weblog archive for November 2003

CANCSA has not closed - just the North Staffs branch of it. 4th November 2003

This Blog incorrectly reported that CANCSA was closing. In fact, it is only the North Staffordshire branch that has closed. The others continue. Apologies for any confusion.

Venue for "CSA Advice Glasgow" - Corn Exchange Pub, 1st Monday of the month. 4th November 2003

CSA Advice Glasgow no longer meets at the Fire Brigade Union. They now meet at the Corn Exchange Pub, Gordon Street, Glasgow. They have moved to a Monday night. So:

The First Monday of every month from 7pm in the Corn Exchange Pub, Gordon Street, Glasgow (across from Central Station).

Court closes child-support loophole for self-employed 5th November 2003

A single mother has won an appeal ruling which could force the Child Support Agency to reopen up to 50,000 assessments and land self-employed divorced fathers with much larger child support payments.

... if the decision stood, the CSA would have to reopen any assessments made on a self-employed parent since October 1999 if requested. Self-employed fathers could also be liable for "shedloads of arrears". 
Nicholas Mostyn QC

A child support commissioner's ruled last month that the CSA has been wrongly applying a 1999 change in the regulations allowing the income declared in self-employed traders' tax returns to be used as a basis for calculating child support. In future fathers will have to supply accounts to support their financial position rather than use a notional figure produced for tax self-assessment.

The commissioner posed the question: "In calculating a self-employed trader's earnings for child support, is he or is he not entitled to any deduction for capital depreciation or capital allowances?" The wording of the 1999 changes was so ambiguous that it could be interpreted either to allow full allowances or no allowances at all, he said. "It was quite unnecessary, if not unforgivable, for the 1999 changes to have been worded in the ambiguous way they were." But he accepted Mostyn's argument that parliament could not have intended to make such a fundamental change in the liability of self- employed fathers without any debate on the issue. The 1999 changes had been meant to be purely administrative.

A spokesman for the CSA said there were around 50,000 "non-resident parents" who were self-employed. He added: "We are considering the implications of this judgement for this and other cases."

The above summary used the following articles:
Times, Frances Gibb, Mother wins fight to close child-support loophole
Guardian, Clare Dyer, 50,000 fathers face paying more child support
Guardian, 'I have cried many times'

Resolution of "Dimensional Warp Generator" request? 7th November 2003

The person who asked Child Support Analysis for a Dimensional Warp Generator has been identified and charged.

A lot of people will say the stuff I talk about is crazy and out of this world. But I know for a fact that it is true and does exist. Untrained minds may disagree with me, but they don't have access to the sources that I do. 
Robert "Robby" Todino

The Blogs for 27th and 29th July described the request by "strill", a time traveller, for a Dimensional Warp Generator to replace his faulty one. Until he got one he was trapped in our time. He didn't turn up at the designated spot in Boston Massachusetts.

A trail of Internet clues has fingered Robert "Robby" Todino as the source of the time-travel messages. The 22-year-old Woburn, Massachusetts, resident admitted that he has sent nearly 100 million of the bizarre messages since November 2001. His father, Robert Todino Sr., worries that malicious users have preyed on Robby's "psychological problems" and bilked him out of money. "What bothers me is that some people are trying to sell him equipment and take advantage of him," said Todino Sr. "He's invested a lot of money into it and has been hurt by it."

Todino's strange time-travel spams have intrigued Internet users for years. GrooveLily, a New York jazz-rock trio, recently released an album with a tune dedicated to the author of the messages.

Wired, Turn Back the Spam of Time
Wired, Time-Travel Spammer Strikes Back

Misguided attitude to "Spiderman" 8th November 2003

David Chick decided to protest on behalf of fathers' rights after a court's decision to restrict his access to his four-year-old daughter. So he dressed as Spiderman and hung from a crane beside Tower Bridge.

Mr Chick's action was not an official F4J protest but it demonstrated the dissatisfaction among fathers with Britain's family court system. 
Matt O'Connor, founder, Fathers 4 Justice

Fathers are reduced to pleading with the mother to see their children.
Michael Cox, Fathers 4 Justice legal adviser

Ken Livingstone missed the point. He said "Mr Chick "amply demonstrated" why some men should not have access to their children". The reason? "The idea that an individual can hold London to ransom is completely unacceptable". A father can't disrupt anything in order to make a protest, can he? Presumably he should protest where no one will notice.

Mr Chick says that nine months before he was like any doting father. Whenever he was not working he would spend most of his spare time with his baby daughter, Lauryn, even after an acrimonious split with his partner when Lauryn was 10 months old. During access time with Lauryn he would buy her anything she wanted, read to her and watch videos of her favourite superhero, Spiderman. But in February, that relationship came to an end when, he claims, he was denied access despite a court order allowing him the right to see the child.

This was not an official action of Fathers 4 Justice, a militant men's group that revels in high profile stunts in its campaign for "truth, justice and equality" in family courts. But Chick supports the group. The group has won the support of Bob Geldof in its drive against what it claims is institutional bias in the courts against divorced men.

Telegraph, Stewart Payne and Sarah Womack, Crane protest costs £5m a day as father holds city to ransom
Independent, Arifa Akbar, 'Spider-man' causes chaos in fathers' rights stunt

Written complaints rise since start of new scheme 9th November 2003

Written complaints per month appear to be running significantly higher now than all recorded complaints before the new scheme started at the beginning of March.

In April 2003 we changed our complaints handling processes. This has ensured the more accurate recording of complaints and ensured the recording for the first time of telephone complaints. I have included below information on written complaints only, for a more representative comparison.
Doug Smith, CEO of CSA

This the response to a written question in the House of Commons. The "recorded complaints" before the new scheme started may be comparable with the "written complaints" afterwards. (The "recorded complaints" ignored telephone complaints before April 2003).

Recorded complaints
September 2002 1,238
October 2002 1,318
November 2002 1,263
December 2002 958
January 2003 1,316
February 2003 1,515
New scheme started in March
Written complaints
June 2003 1,666
July 2003 2,017
August 2003 1,725

House of Commons, written answers, 3rd November

Catholic Church and bizarre statements about contraception 10th November 2003

Sometimes organisations issue statements that defy belief. See this, from Bishop Victor Galeone!

Since God fashioned our bodies male and female to communicate both life and love, every time that husband and wife deliberately frustrate this twofold purpose through contraception, they are acting out a lie. The body language of the marital act says, "I'm all yours," but the contraceptive device adds, "except for my fertility".
Bishop Victor Galeone

"These latest developments are mere symptoms of a vastly more serious disorder. Until the taproot of that disorder is cut, I fear that we will continue to reap the fruit of failed marriages and worsening sexual behaviour at every level of society. The disorder? Contraception... ".

He went on: "Worse still, how can one justify a husband having a surgeon clip his robust vocal cords, or a wife having her healthy eardrums surgically removed? Yet in the area of sexual communication, how do such horrific examples differ from a vasectomy or a tubal ligation?"

Gosh! How did we fail to see that contraception was like having your vocal chords destroyed or your ears destroyed? Isn't it obvious when it is explained to us?

"When Spouses Speak the Truth With Their Bodies", Bishop Victor Galeone on God's Plan for Marriage

Government apologises to parents over the CSA's computer system 13th November 2003

Yesterday, the Government apologised to parents over problems with a new computer system which has plunged child maintenance payments into chaos.

From 3 March 2003 ... owing to problems with the computer system, the service that we have given to some agency clients has still fallen well short of what they are entitled to receive, and for that I should like to offer my unreserved apologies.
Chris Pond, Work and Pensions minister

This was during a one and half hour debate in Westminster Hall, opened by Mr. Robert Syms (Poole). There was little that hasn't been said before, many times. However, Syms made some interesting points:

"I want to consider some of the people who regularly come to my surgeries. They are principally non-resident parents, predominately men, who still feel that the system does not treat them well. [X] comes in fairly regularly. His main complaint is that he feels like a second-class citizen and that, although we all understand that the interests of children are paramount, many people are bruised by the experience of being dealt with by the Child Support Agency. He has discussed the matter with other non-resident parents in my constituency. Many feel that they are not given the same amount of information or the same degree of support as the parent with care, and that the system does not listen to their concerns....

"Even when such parents take up complaints with the agency, they feel like they are dealing with jelly. That is because, I have been told, officers mysteriously disappear, names seem never to have existed, and the parents feel that they are not given a fair deal by the CSA.

"One perennial complaint crops up when the parent with care is wealthier and in a relationship. They sometimes use the CSA and the system to put the non-resident parent into a situation of financial disadvantage, so that they cannot visit the children. That is particularly a problem when they have moved away, and such situations have caused difficulties."

Bob Russell (Colchester) said:

"I congratulate the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) on convening the debate. So far nobody has spoken in support of the Child Support Agency, and I suspect that that will continue. I do not envy the Minister, who must try to defend the indefensible."

Mr. Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale):

"Many families do not know where they stand because of the guide book issued by the CSA, which states that the agency "may" do this, it "can" do that, or a rule "may" apply. In examples from some of my correspondence, the CSA said: "We will probably take action against you." How are constituents expected to get on with their lives if they do not know where they stand?"

It is impossible to do justice to the debate here. The transcript is in Hansard, see below.

Scotsman.com, Joe Churcher, Apology over Maintenance Payments Problems
Guardian, Child maintenance computers
Hansard, debate in Westminster Hall on CSA, 12th November

Woman to appeal in frozen embryo case 14th November 2003

Two women went to court so that they could use frozen embryos fertilised by men who no longer want the embryos to be used. The court upheld the law and stated that the men's permission was needed. This was recorded in this Blog on 3rd October.

Conception is a joint enterprise, whether both agree a child should result or not, and carries enduring responsibility. The Child Support Agency sees to that. Why should a technical method of conception be any different?
Jenni Murray, Guardian

One of the 2 women has decided to appeal against the court's decision. (The other has decided not to). Hopefully this appeal will also uphold the law, which is unambiguous.

One commentator, Jenni Murray in the Guardian, displayed the confused thinking of those who believe that women's desire to have children should override the law and the legitimate decisions of the men. (She didn't comment at all on what the children might think growing up knowing their fathers didn't want them to be born).

She accepts that the consequences of conception can be enduring (see quote on right). But she still criticised the men for exercising their right under law not to suffer those enduring consequences! Her quote suggests that she doesn't understand the difference between "conception" (the act of becoming pregnant) and "fertilisation". The women didn't conceive. Fortunately, the law understands the difference.

Guardian, Jenni Murray, Cruel, mean spirited and selfish
Telegraph, Embryo fight dropped
Ananova, Woman to fight on over frozen embryos

Advances in male contraception (1) - introduction 15th November 2003

This is the first of a number of Blogs about advances in male contraception. These Blogs will describe, over the next few days, progress towards the objective that either partner can veto conception, using means that are safe, reliable, unobtrusive, and reversible.

There are six groups around the world testing versions of a male contraceptive focused on a combination of the male hormone testosterone and the female hormone progestogen. 
Professor David Baird, Centre for Reproductive Biology at Edinburgh University

I've heard too many times where, 'Oh, she said she was on the pill!' You know, how many times have we heard that? It puts it into your hands. You decide now.
Quentin Brown, who joined a study on a new type of male contraception

In the last month or so, separate teams in Australia and South Africa have announced encouraging progress towards convenient male contraception. Future Blogs will focus on each of these. Scientists stress that it could be several years before these particular contraceptives are available.

Work continues elsewhere too. A contraceptive method which men cannot forget to take, and which could remain effective for three years, is being developed in Britain. Unlike the "male pill" - a contraceptive in tablet form which is already under trial - the new study will test a hormone implant, a pair of tiny rods placed under the skin of the arm. Results are expected by the end of next year, and the method could reach the market after 2005, according to the pharmaceutical company Organon. Meanwhile, China and India are pressing ahead with non-hormonal methods such as RISUG and Shugs.

Will men use them? Some say yes, some say only if their partners make them, and other say they would never even consider it. (Perhaps they need someone to whisper in their ear "child support agency"!)

Telegraph, Celia Hall, 'Pill' for men that lasts three years
Telegraph, Roger Highfield, Men may get a Pill to control fertility
Guardian, Catherine Bennett, Men on the pill - it's not as silly as it sounds
The Mercury (South Africa), Will men ever be on the pill?
Wired News, Louise Knapp, A Man's Way to Keep Sperm at Bay
Daily Trojan, CHRISTOPHER EDLING, Male contraceptives show some promise
ABC Health, Dr. Jay Adlersberg, New Birth Control Option for Men
Chicago Sun-Times, MIKE THOMAS AND SARA FIEDELHOLTZ, Goodbye condoms?
Northern Star online, Jamie Luchsinger, Pregnancy prevention extends to males
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, Kathy George, Male birth-control pill studied
MSNBC, John Schieszer, Male birth control pill soon a reality

Advances in male contraception (2) - Australia 16th November 2003

An Australian team at the Anzac Research Institute, in Concord, New South Wales, have tested a contraceptive injection that makes men temporarily sterile without harmful side effects. It has been "100 per cent effective" in human trials, researchers said. When the hormone treatment was given to 55 men for a year, none of their wives or girlfriends became pregnant.

This is the first time couples have relied on this form of contraceptive in tests. Most previous trials have been for safety. They had good numbers of volunteers and no pregnancies, which makes it another good step in the continuing progress. 
Dr Mel Walton, specialist in reproductive medicine with the Medical Research Council in Edinburgh

This is progress towards the objective that either partner can veto conception, using means that are safe, reliable, unobtrusive, and reversible. Prof David Handelsman, who tested the contraceptive at the Anzac Research Institute, in Concord, New South Wales, said: "The results of this study foreshadow how men may be able to take greater responsibility for contraception in a convenient and effective way". Once the treatment stopped, men were fertile again within a few months. "This is the first time a reversible male contraceptive that will suppress sperm production reliably and reversibly has been fully tested by couples," he said, and added: "As researchers we have done as much as is possible. It is now over to the companies to develop a convenient and acceptable product. We have proved that it is possible for them to do it".

Attracting the interest of drug companies may prove tricky. Other teams have proved the feasibility of similar "male pills" but companies have not rushed to commercialise them. The problem of proving safety and efficacy in an increasingly litigious society is the main discouragement. Introducing the female Pill today would be a great deal more difficult than it was 40 years ago. A male contraceptive treatment faces the same if not greater hurdles, with the risk of huge lawsuits if it proves to have ill-effects 20 years later.

A Yahoo! Malecontraceptive group member, Matt Campbell, said society still has to make some changes before male contraception will be widely accepted. "There is a social and cultural bias at work to explain why more time and money has not been put into it. Many people still falsely believe men in general will not get on and stay on the male pill. Why they believe this, I do not know".

Some of the news commentary appears to miss the point. For example "because the treatment is invasive - requiring injections and implants every three to four months - it is likely to be used only by men in long-term relationships". Why? It sounds ideal for men who don't want to risk paying child support, but don't want to rule out the possibility of having children in future.

Telegraph, Birth control jab for men
Independent, Jeremy Laurance, Male contraceptive pill proves 100 per cent effective in first trial
Times, Nigel Hawkes, Male contraceptive jab has '100% success rate'
Badger Herald, Caley Meals, Birth of male contraceptive draws closer
Guardian, Men on the pill? Yeah, right

Advances in male contraception (3) - South Africa 17th November 2003

A new contraceptive for males is being tested at the University of Cape Town. Professor Zephne van der Spuy, head of UCT's department of obstetrics and gynaecology, says the new contraceptive will be tested on 30 Cape Town men.

But the side effects have been very modest so far. There is no change in sexual ability. Some men say their sex drive improves. 
Richard Anderson, obstetric gynaecologist visiting Cape Town

There's no good having something that's super for Scottish men, but that men in Cape Town are not going to find acceptable. 
Zephne van der Spuy, professor in charge of the UCT department of obstetrics and gynaecology

This is progress towards the objective that either partner can veto conception, using means that are safe, reliable, unobtrusive, and reversible. The study will involve 60 men from three other centres - Nigeria, Shanghai and Hong Kong - who will try the male "pill" in the form of an implant.

Men have traditionally enjoyed only three contraception choices - condoms, abstinence or a vasectomy. Faure, one of those taking part in the trial, welcomed the idea that men could have other options. "Just because men are in long-term relationships doesn't mean they want to have babies. And this will even the balance. It'll give men the chance to make their own decision about when they want to become a dad. If you went out there and asked men how many of them actually made the decision to become fathers, you'll find that not many did."

Similar research is being done in Scotland, Nigeria and China under the auspices of the Contraceptive Development Network. Van der Spuy says the drug should be on the market between five and seven years' time.

Cape Times, UCT seeks male pill volunteers for study
iol.za, Wanted: Cape Town men to test contraceptives
iol.za, Di Caelers, Cape dad signs up for new male contraceptive

Contraceptive Development Unit - Male Research Programme

CSA 'drove couple apart' with false paternity claim 18th November 2003

A man engaged to his childhood sweetheart says their relationship was ruined when he was wrongly accused by the Child Support Agency of fathering a child.

I did trust David 100 per cent, but then it was 50:50. I believed him, but letters kept coming and we were rowing. It just got bad. We are talking now and a DNA test will sort it out. 
Georgina Mitchell, the fiancée

David Robinson's life was turned upside down by demands of money for a mother and son he never met. He was stunned when he got a letter from the CSA demanding that he pay maintenance for the six-month-old boy born 440 miles away in Edinburgh.

Staff admitted they had confused Mr Robinson with the real father because the men share the same birthday. But letters from the CSA kept arriving. Mr Robinson rang the CSA to tell them they had made a mistake. He was told to return its form after ticking a box stating that he was not the father. But the CSA sent him paperwork stating the details of his employer, his home address and claiming he had agreed to pay for the child. Staff promised him during a phone call that the mistake would be put right, but a week later he received a demand for payments totalling more than £100 per month. Despite making another phone call, in which the CSA promised to resolve the problem, he received another letter within days demanding £27 a week.

The CSA said: "Some of the information in this case was incorrect and we apologise to Mr Robinson." (Gosh!)

It has been said that "when such parents take up complaints with the agency, they feel like they are dealing with jelly". Others believe that dealing with the CSA is like being faced with a relentless, incompetent, machine. Until the CSA accepts that it often makes mistakes, and acts accordingly, it will continue to be a blot on the UK's government landscape.

Telegraph, Sarah Womack, CSA "drove couple apart" with false paternity claim

Catholic Church's contraceptive policies encourage the spread of AIDS 19th November 2003

It is useful to insert this item into the series of items on progress with male contraceptives. It supplements the item of 10th November about the Catholic Church's weird comparisons about contraception.

The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken by Aids not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through which HIV can pass. This is potentially exposing thousands of people to risk. The church is making the claims across four continents despite a widespread scientific consensus that condoms are impermeable to HIV.

These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million. 
World Health Organisation

The World Health Organisation says "consistent and correct" condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90%. There may be breakage or slippage of condoms - but not, the WHO says, holes through which the virus can pass. Scientific research by a group including the US National Institutes of Health and the WHO found:

"intact condoms... are essentially impermeable to particles the size of STD pathogens including the smallest sexually transmitted virus... condoms provide a highly effective barrier to transmission of particles of similar size to those of the smallest STD viruses".

Says an Italian priest who has lived in Brazil for the last 22 years:

"AIDS is a world epidemic, a public health problem that must be confronted with scientific advances and methods that have proven effective. Rejecting condom use is to oppose the fight for life".

In Lwak, near Lake Victoria, the director of an Aids testing centre says he cannot distribute condoms because of church opposition. Gordon Wambi told the BBC:

"Some priests have even been saying that condoms are laced with HIV/Aids."

The BBC found the claims about permeable condoms repeated by Catholics as far apart as Asia and Latin America. Father Valeriano Paitoni says the Catholic Church will see itself forced once again to ask for humanity's forgiveness for the errors committed with respect to AIDS, just as it had to in the cases of the indigenous and Afro-Brazilian populations.

BBC, Short criticises Vatican over Aids fight
IGC News Desk, Mario Osava, Ban on Condom Use Divides Catholic Church
BBC, Church rejects plea on condoms
Guardian, Steve Bradshaw, Vatican: condoms don't stop Aids
FreeRepublic.com, HIV/Aids: Catholic Church in Condom Palaver
bloggy, Catholic Church: Condoms are useless against AIDS

Criticism of the Northern Ireland CSA 20th November 2003

There is a separate Northern Ireland Child Support Agency, working largely to the same legislation as the more familiar Great Britain child support agency. It, too, has is share of complaints, although obviously fewer than the much larger Great Britain version.

The Northern Ireland Ombudsman, Tom Frawley, has published his annual report for 2002/2003. It includes cases against the NI CSA. For example, from the newspaper below:

"A finding of maladministration was also made against the Child Support Agency, after a claimant had complained about its attitude, behaviour, and the way it administered its procedures. The CSA accepted Mr Frawley's recommendation that a payment of £1,000 be made to the individual and a letter of apology sent by the Agency's chief executive".

It may be unfair to draw attention to the Northern Ireland Child Support Agency in this way. It appears that all Child Support Agencies in the world are guilty of such behaviour! I said in this Blog on 5th August:

"It could be argued that CSA staff need more skills and experience than those of other key government departments. They have to deal with 2 "clients" (often antagonistic) at a time, unlike other agencies. But the CSA doesn't (primarily) collect money for the government, nor provide a service of unambiguous value to voters. It is government interference in what should ideally be a civil matter. It appears to be a trend across the world to treat child support as less important than other concerns. Few schemes work well."

Belfast Telegraph, David Gordon, Ombudsman reports 6.5% climb in cases

Northern Ireland Ombudsman
Northern Ireland Child Support Agency

The cost of raising children - latest research 21st November 2003

Another survey shows the high cost of raising children. What should the effect on the CSA formula be?

Everyone knows that raising children can be expensive but few will have realised that bringing up three children could cost nearly half a million pounds. 
Malcolm Berryman, Liverpool Victoria’s group chief executive

I think children are a more expensive commodity in Britain because other countries are more geared up to it and their social lives are more revolved around children. For example, you can't take a child into a pub here, you have to pay for a baby-sitter if you want a social life, whereas it is completely different on the Continent. 
Jill Gwyufryu-Evans, a mother who has an 18-month daughter

The research was conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research on behalf of the Liverpool Victoria, Britain’s largest friendly society. The total bill for rearing a child from birth to the age of 21 is said to be £140,000, £2,600 more than the average cost of a home. The figures work out on average at £6,686 a year, £129 a week or £18 a day for a typical two-parent working household.

UK parents are the top spenders in Europe and are the most likely to splash out on toys and holidays. In fact it costs parents nearly a third more to bring up a child in the UK than in Spain and France. Costs are highest for UK parents in the first five years of their child's life when a staggering £46,695 is spent. For overall costs, Italy and Germany came in second and third place respectively, while Spain was found to be the most economical country, with parents spending less than £100,000 per child. Continental Europeans tend not to pamper their children with luxury items in the same way as people in the UK. British parents are estimated to spend 71 per cent more than their Spanish counterparts and 62 per cent more than the French.

The most expensive years in a child's life are between 19-21, which cost parents around £10,000 a year, largely because of university costs. However, children only cost their parents slightly less when they are aged between two and five. This is because child care costs push up expenditure to 39,557 pounds over the period. Raising them adds up to £9,889.25 a year, because child care in Britain is so expensive. Parents can expect to spend around £7,138 during the first year of their child's life on nursery furniture and equipment such as prams and pushchairs, while paying for food and leisure activities are the biggest costs when a child is aged between six and 11.

The CEBR research draws on information from the Government's Expenditure and Food Survey 2001-02, Eurostat's Household Budget Survey, and analysis from Mothercare, Child Poverty Action Group, Daycare Trust, NannyTax survey, Independent Schools Councils, National Union of Students, and various indices.

Times, Valerie Elliott, You’ve saved for the house. Now save for your children. They’ll cost as much
BBC, High cost of bringing up baby
Independent, Arifa Akbar, Britain tops Euro league for cost of raising child
Telegraph, Sarah Womack, Raising a child will cost you £140,000
Telegraph, Sarah Womack, The bills are scary, says mother
Reuters, Justine Trueman, Kids can cost the house

"The cost of children" - overview and summary

Advances in male contraception (4) - summary 22nd November 2003

This concludes a series of Blog items: Introduction; Australia; and South Africa. The objective is:

"All children born should have been wanted, or at least accepted, by both man & woman when they had sex".

Why are women commenting on this anyhow? This is an issue about men's rights and freedoms. Why should "we" trust you? 
Chris, UK

Of course men can be trusted to take the pill... The guys are relieved because at last they no longer have to trust the women. 
Martin Lewis, UK

Most men I know would DEFINITELY take it. Who wants an unwanted baby or the paying out of maintenance? 
Steve, England

Men have to deal with the lifetime of guilt and the 18 years of child support for their "mistake". Once the pill becomes available, I'll certainly be using it. 
Andy Bonazzoli, USA

Examples of cases that should be eliminated include:

  • Children resulting from carelessness or embarrassment. (Many men & women use contraceptives incorrectly, and some women feel they will be thought promiscuous if they are well-prepared with contraceptives).
  • Children resulting from misunderstanding. ("I thought you were on the pill").
  • Children resulting from "sperm banditry" - where the woman wants a child but not a partner. (Other than perhaps just a paying-partner).

Eliminating such problem cases will:

  • Reduce the load on the child support agency.
  • Remove all excuses!

The strategy is that either partner can veto conception, using means that are safe, reliable, unobtrusive, and reversible. This ideal state gets nearer each year. But it is still years away. Some people believe that men will not use such contraceptives. But these are exactly what some men want. The ability to have sex without the risk of being liable for child support. Anyone who can't grasp this fact is totally missing the point.

Pages on this web site:
Advances in male contraception - overview
Markets for new generations of male contraception
More information & references for male contraception
The politics (sexual & otherwise) of male contraception

Surveys in various parts of the world:
Male involvement and contraceptive methods for men: Present and future
Would women trust their partners to use a male pill? (National Library of Medicine - PubMed)
BBC, Will men take the pill?
BBC, Would you trust a man to take the pill
The Age, Will men ever be on the Pill?
Wessex Scene, Izzy Brown, It's ok honey - I'm on the pill

Palm Beach Post, John Allen, Patches beat pills down the hatch

Key external resources:
malecontraceptives.org

Consultation for paternity testing services later this year 23rd November 2003

The Human Genetics Commission (HGC) will be consulting further on paternity testing services later in the year. There is an existing Code of Practice and Guidance on Genetic Paternity Testing Services. The HGC say:

"At the moment we are collating background information on paternity testing services and how the existing Code of Practice and Guidance on Genetic Paternity Testing Services is working in practice. We will be consulting further on this issue later in the year."

There is lots of stuff on this web site about paternity testing. Here are the local references:

Papers:
"A matter of opinion" - Unofficial paternity tests and the impacts on children
Barry Pearson (a submission to the Human Genetics Commission, 2003)
What is the crime if men seek confirmation that children are theirs?
Barry Pearson (a submission to the Human Genetics Commission, 2003)
"The truth is out there" - Commentary on "Move to outlaw secret DNA testing by fathers"
Barry Pearson (a submission to the Human Genetics Commission, 2002)
"Knowledge is bliss"- Towards a society without paternity surprises
Barry Pearson (a submission to the Human Genetics Commission, 2002)

Normal web pages:
Parentage, especially paternity
Paternity tests for peace of mind
Some links to paternity testing services
Infidelity testing - technologies and services

Poor CSA performance publicised by Steve Webb (again!) 29th November 2003

Once again Steve Webb, Lib Dems MP and work and pensions spokesman, has obtained statistics of the bad performance of the CSA and interpreted them to the limit.

It is scandalous that this multimillion pound computer system is so completely unreliable that CSA staff are having get pocket calculators out simple to keep the backlog down. 
Steve Webb MP, Lib Dems spokesman

Mr Webb had misused statistics. 
Spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions

Since the new scheme started on 3rd March, the news has undoubtedly been bad. The new computer system is deficient. CSA staff cannot work effectively because of this. And there are serious delays in the processing of child support applications.

53,068 of the 152,564 claims received since March have been processed. Of those, only 5,625 have led to payments being made. Steve Webb claims this is a success rate of less than four per cent. The figures also revealed that nearly 1 in 5 (17%) of the assessments were found to be incorrect. Figures on compliance, in particular those who are not paying what they should be, cannot be calculated because of "technical issues".

A spokesman for the Work and Pensions Department accused Mr Webb of misusing statistics. He said that of the 53,068 applications processed, 22,540 ended in the case being closed, normally because the claim was withdrawn. As a result it was unfair to say only four per cent of applicants were getting their money.

If the number still active is 22,540 less, then the percentage is 5,625 out of 130,024 instead. In other words, about 4-and-one-third percent. Gosh! That is OK, then!

Telegraph, Andrew Sparrow, CSA failing to pay out in £450m computer fiasco
Guardian, Matt Weaver, New CSA computer system fails to deliver
Edinburgh News, CSA glitches hitting parents in pocket
KableNet, CSA fails to pay
4NI, £300m CSA system fails 'majority' of applicants
Scotsman, CSA glitches hitting parents in pocket
Sun, DAVID WOODING, Computer hits kids' cash
The Journal, More open government
BBC, Computer problems hit CSA payout
Computing, Sarah Arnott, CSA criticised over progress of IT system

Cover-ups at the CSA? 30th November 2003

This Blog has already quoted reports that CSA staff have been told to cover-up the CSA's computer problems. Now the matter has surfaced again.

For a long time, we were told not to tell any claimants about the computer problems.... We were being faced with angry people who thought we were the reason their claim wasn't going through. We weren't able to tell them about the technical problems. 
PCS official, who works at the CSA

There is an ongoing dispute about whether the Government & the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) are being as open as they claim about the failings of the CSA's new computer system. As reported on 29th November, the DWP said "it was unfair to say only four per cent of applicants were getting their money". But redoing the sums using their "corrections" suggests that the real number is still only about 4-and-one-third per cent. Big deal!

The news report below points out:

"The Government says it has been "open" about these "technical issues" and is working closely with the IT supplier to solve them. That does not square with staff claims that they have been urged to say nothing about the technical problems to clients."

Staff say that information simply "disappears" from the new computer system. They claim data can simply drop off the system, to be lost for days or weeks. Simon Elliot, negotiations officer for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCs), said:

"It is causing the clients and staff on the ground real problems... Staff are being left to bear the brunt of complaints from people trying to make claims. We've already made a submission to that effect to the House of Commons because it is undeniably unfair for the workers on the ground to get any of the blame for this. They are working under extreme pressure."

Another PCs official, who did not want to be named because he works at the CSA, said:

"Where there has been severe pressure over a case, special teams have been set up to deal with the situation.... That has meant working things out on the basis of pens, papers and calculators.... many staff also felt "pressured" by bosses over the situation.... For a long time, we were told not to tell any claimants about the computer problems. That put staff under intense pressure."

The Journal, More open government

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