Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Most Evil Department

 In April 1993, the then Conservative government unleashed their latest dogmatic idea to hit the poorest and most vulnerable in society - while at the same time saving money on the benefit and income support for the poorest, while laying down plans for tax cuts for the wealthy. Always a central plank in Conservative policy and dogma.

What they launched was called the Child Support Agency!

The reasoning behind the creation of this Government department was based around, what now appears to be flimsy, evidence that single mothers were claiming benefit for themselves and their children and that absent fathers were contributing nothing. The 'overwhelming' evidence for this has never been published and the whole idea was sold as giving single parents financial support from the absent partner. Of course, what that Government did was to give with the one hand and take it away with the other - in other words, the single parent's benefit claim was re-assessed in the light of the income from the absent parent.

However, this agency was quickly seen by divorcing parents as another, officially sanctioned body to heap humiliation and hurt on the absent parent, not matter how much that person was trying, in very difficult circumstances, to provide support and positive parenthood to their children. Vindictive ex-partners saw it as a means to add to their income without having to have their claims tested properly in law. People who really didn't need the money, used the CSA as a means of punishment to the ex-partner.

Once a claim is made - that is it! there is no assessment, no review of ability to pay - just an order to pay loaded with lots of legal threat and promise if not paid. Further humiliation can then be piled on when the requesting partner refuses any discussion with the absent partner to find an amicable means of payment. In most cases, it is done by attachment to earnings, leaving the payer embarrassed and humiliated in their place of work, where the constant feeling that people now judge you as someone who doesn't care for their children.

And what about the children. If they are old enough, they can see that they have now become financial assets to be seen as means of income and cost. The resentment that builds up with this CSA arrangement can have the result in seriously affecting the relationships the paying partner has and feels towards their children. The children feel it too. They know they are no longer important for themselves, but for what they cost and provide financially.

Finally, the effect on the absent parent - generally this is the father.

It would not be surprising if the CSA leads people to suicide, perhaps as "the final straw". The Men's Health Forum says:
"Most suicides occurred because the individual felt disconnected from their community, family and friends; they failed to adjust to social change (suggesting that this occurs during periods of economic depression); or resulted from the individual losing their personal identity and wishing to sacrifice their life for the ‘community’ (as in the case of ‘cult’ suicides). Durkheim and others have argued that the higher societal fragmentation, the higher the suicide rate. This fragmentation can take a number of forms, with the loss of a job, divorce, poor social networks and low community affiliation all highlighted as factors in suicide."
Think what this means to any separated parent, but especially one who may have lost significant contact with "his" children, has possibly had to move out of the house so that the children can live there with the mother, and may well have lost contact with about half of the friends and acquaintances. And then along comes an Agency which treats him as an "Absent Parent" and takes money off him to hand over to someone he may now hate.

I am sure that there are absent parents who need to be cajoled into paying something towards the up-keep of their children, but in the majority of cases, honest, loving parents are pursued with unrelenting vigour - even if they are already contributing, voluntarily to their children's welfare.

The way the agency is presently set up and the way it conducts it business is, quite frankly, wrong. It is, I believe, now primarily used for 'evil', selfish purposes, and even if the CSA knows this, it does nothing to mitigate against it.

The Child Support Agency is I believe, more a force of evil by the wedges it thrusts in-between already difficult family relationships, and those who use this organisation need to closely examine their motives.