Tories berate Blunkett over his advice to avoid the CSA

29 Sep 05
Shadow work and pensions minister David Willetts has attacked the government for suggesting that parents should avoid using the troubled Child Support Agency for maintenance payments.

30 September 2005

Shadow work and pensions minister David Willetts has attacked the government for suggesting that parents should avoid using the troubled Child Support Agency for maintenance payments.

Willetts this week dismissed Work and Pensions Secretary David Blunkett's plan to set up a 'gateway' service to assist working parents to resolve potential CSA cases before they reach the agency.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference in Brighton on September 26, Blunkett said a service to be piloted in 2006 would advise parents on how they 'can work out for themselves satisfactory [maintenance] arrangements'.

Blunkett said the gateway service 'would allow the CSA to focus resources' on a backlog of around 260,000 new claims.

But the Conservatives said the proposal indicated that the government was missing the point of the agency, which was set up in the 1990s precisely because hundreds of thousands of parents could not reach agreements on maintenance and entered into protracted and expensive court proceedings.

Blunkett is awaiting a root-and-branch assessment of the agency's functions from its chief executive, Stephen Geraghty, which the Department for Work and Pensions this week promised to publish by the end of 2005.

'Blunkett appears to be telling parents not to bother using the CSA,' Willetts said.

He claimed that payment accuracy rates had fallen during the period of Geraghty's review, with 30% of families not receiving the cash they are due.

More than 325,000 cases are currently inaccurately administered, he claimed.

PFsep2005

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