Lilley presses home attack

THE CHANGES to the hated Child Support Agency announced by social services secretary Peter Lilley are directed towards the complaints of absent middle class parents.

The agency was set up with the stated aim of bringing to book ‘irresponsible’ absent parents and making them accountable for the maintenance of their children. But the real aim was to make savings for the treasury in benefit payments to single parents, as part of the new consensus shared by Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats to gradually dismantle the welfare state.

So the agency concentrated its fire on the absent partners of parents receiving benefit. However parents with care did not gain, because any maintenance payment was simply docked, pound for pound, from state benefit. Absent parents were often driven into real poverty and desperation.

Now Lilley has announced that he will steal no more than 30% of the absent parent’s net income and will from now on take into account ‘clean break’ settlements - such as an agreement by the father to hand over the couple’s house to the mother. These changes will go some way to stem the thousands of complaints from better-off absent parents, but will still deprive many low-paid and unemployed workers of up to a third of their income.

In the meantime the government has reneged on an earlier promise to start tracking down the absent partners of single parents who are not receiving state benefit. This makes it clear once and for all that its aim has nothing to do with ‘helping’ single parents.

From 1997 ‘maintenance’ received but not actually paid out will be ‘banked’ and handed over to unemployed single parents once they start work. This is a despicable attempt to entice desperate single parents to take up part time work at slave labour rates, and will no doubt be used in conjunction with threats to deprive them of benefits if they refuse to take up such ‘jobs’.

The Labour Party, having unanimously supported the introduction of the CSA in the first place, now complains that these amendments have come too late!

Alan Fox