Child Support Agency charge backed

Lain Duncan SmithIain Duncan Smith has defended proposals to charge single parents for using the Child Support Agency, stating "we're not asking for much".

The Work and Pensions Secretary said the current system was "completely dysfunctional". He added it was "very expensive", did not work and "actually helps divide parents from each other".
Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, he said: "The last government legislated for the charge and what we've looked at, as behavioural economics show, that if you have a relatively small charge there, what happens is people think about it.

"We know for example that 50% of those who are going into the system have said to us that had they thought again, they would have actually done it outside, because they would have made a much better compromise arrangement."

In the sixth Lords defeat for Mr Duncan Smith's benefits shake-up, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats joined Labour peers to vote by a majority of 142 against the move on Wednesday night. The Department for Work and Pensions said it would seek to overturn the latest amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill when it returned to the Commons.

The rebellion, on the final day of the Bill's stormy report stage in the Lords, was led by Tory former Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern.

Lord Mackay said the Government's plans could have the effect of putting single mothers off seeking the financial support they were entitled to.

Lord Mackay's amendment would stop an upfront charge of £100 or £50 plus a levy of up to 12% on maintenance payments applying if a single parent, generally a mother, had taken "reasonable" steps to get the other parent to come to a voluntary agreement on child support.

Mr Duncan Smith said: "The key point though, what's wrong with his amendment, is that he's not against charging. He wants all the charge to be on the parent without care, and of course the problem with that is immediately you have no charge on the parent with care, even if there's a slight difficulty, there'll go straight into the system because it's almost as though they could punish the individual twice."

He added: "We want to make sure that this is a balance, and we're not asking for much, it's only about 9%, 12% of the amount that they receive. We're still going to pick up the lion's share of the cost. But we also have fairness to the taxpayer who's paying huge sums of money to run this badly, we want to say to them, we don't need to take quite so much off you to actually do this system well."
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