Select Committee on Social Security Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by National Association for Child Support Action (NACSA) (CS 36)

  1.  NACSA does not believe the government's proposed scheme will work any better than the current system. It will not gain widespread support, will not increase compliance and will fail children, families and the taxpayer.

  2.  NACSA wants to see a radical departure from DSS-led child support. We advocate a discretionary system based upon mediation and administered by genuinely independent tribunals or a new unitary family court.

  3.  NACSA believes that any new system must enshrine these principles:

    —  financial provision is only one aspect of supporting children.

    —  the best interests of children must always come first.

    —  both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children to the best of their abilities—the burden should not fall entirely on one or the other.

    —  child maintenance payments should primarily benefit the children, not reimburse the Treasury for welfare expenditure.

    —  it must fully take into account all the circumstances and needs of both parents and all the children of the family.

    —  it must be free of rigid formulae because no formula can cover the widely varying circumstances of individual families.

    —  it must be efficient, cost-effective and provide high-quality service based on sensitivity and customer care.

  4.  NACSA believes the present proposals are, as in the previous system, designed primarily to reduce or recoup welfare expenditure—benefiting children remains a secondary consideration. Although NACSA recognised that taxpayers have a legitimate stake, their interests must not come before those of children. Government claims the proposed scheme will balance the interests of children, resident parents, non-resident parents and the "rights" of the taxpayer. It won't and it can't because these interests are conflicting—no system can please all of the people all of the time.

  5.  Child support is a minefield—by definition, it affects families which have broken up or were never together. More often than not, the parties are in dispute. Sensitivity, negotiation and natural justice are prerequisites of any system. The scheme proposed in the green paper will not deliver any of these.

  6.  Child support is the only major aspect of divorce and separation dealt with by the DSS rather than the LCD. As the DSS spectacularly failed to deliver the present child support regime, expecting the new proposals to work seems a triumph of hope over experience.

September 1999

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