Select Committee on Social Security Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340 - 348)



  340. Which countries?
  (Mr Pearson) Australia has a similar scheme, Norway does, I am not sure about Sweden, and New Zealand does. There are at least 14 states, there may be more, in the United States that operate a similar symmetrical formula.

Dr Naysmith

  341. Still on second families, your section 7, "First Children First",[15] you make it clear that you disapprove of the proposal that was in the White Paper but not in the Green Paper to do with percentage rates for a first family's children versus the second family's children. Why do you think it changes between the Green Paper and the White Paper?

  (Ms Randall) The Green Paper was a consultative paper so presumably the Government took note of what was said to them about that and came down in favour of the proposal that they have come up with now. They have clearly decided to say that first children will be slightly more favoured than children in the second family. I think our only objection to that is when we are talking about child support we think that all children of all families should be treated equally as a moral principle. We also think that the original proposal the Government made was more transparent. If you have two children in one family, the first family, you will pay 20 per cent of your net income and if you have one in the first and one in the second then it seems logical to us that you split that 20 per cent and have ten in each. What the Government has gone for in that situation is you would pay 12.75. It is not quite as transparent for people to work out for themselves.

  342. From what has been said this afternoon it sounds as if you have got a lot more access to ministers than some of us around the table. Do you think that this change was for moral reasons or for social policy reasons?
  (Ms Randall) I would be guessing but I think perhaps lobbying was perhaps stronger on the other side. I am guessing, I am not sure.

  343. Who do you know who was lobbying for this, that second family children should be better treated than first family?
  (Ms Randall) It is not that they should be better treated—

  344. Financially.
  (Ms Randall) I think perhaps lobbying from single parent groups that first families will be losing out under the other proposal, and in fact that was stated quite explicitly in the White Paper, the Government took that on board.

Mr Pond

  345. Just a quick question on your scheme of shared care, your 15/20/25 per cent for the parent with care. Would that include parents with care on income support?
  (Ms Randall) No.

  346. How would you deal with those, the symmetry would break down?
  (Ms Randall) It applies the same criteria to the parent with care when she is the non-resident parent as it would to the non-resident parent who never looked after the children at all. At the moment there is the plan for a minimum £5 deduction but that is exempted for cases of shared care. So for a parent with care on income support and a non-resident parent on income support, neither would have that minimum £5 deduction made because the acknowledgement is that they are sharing the care of the child. Of course the non-resident parent is already at a disadvantage because, unlike the parent with care, he only gets the single person's allowance whereas the parent with care on income support will get the additional allowances, housing benefit, child benefit, on top of it, so she is already in an advantageous position.

Ms Buck

  347. Forgive me if this is in the details. Could you just run through for me for a minute what your definitions are of "fixed costs" for this purpose? What are your assumptions?
  (Mr Pearson) When I constructed these I did not specifically have a definition of fixed costs, I simply took the White Paper statement that there were fixed costs and then said "okay, I will accept that, now let us apply it systematically to both parents". These are the consequences of that, so all I was really doing was just accepting the statement in the White Paper that there are these fixed costs and then applying them systematically.

  348. I am not unsympathetic to some of the points that have been made about the need for absent fathers to be given assistance to look after the children, but what I have found over the years, not just in CSA cases, but over the years most tiresome is listening to the non-resident parents saying, "I give him pocket money and I buy the trainers", and I think we have got to unpick this issue of fixed costs and non-fixed costs a bit. The housing cost clearly is a fixed cost, as is the Weetabix and so forth which are just day-to-day costs, but the issue of child care in particular is so often ignored in that calculation and the issue of who buys the clothes and shoes which phenomenally actually falls disproportionately on the parent with care. I just want to make sure that in making a case which has merits to it in principle, we do make sure that it is an honest case which really does recognise that the fixed costs are not just about the housing component and which is actually reflecting the true reality of the family situation between two households.

  (Ms Randall) And I think that is a concern of the National Council for One Parent Families as well as it has been expressed to us and yes, that is a real concern. I think what we would also point out is that fathers often have contact at the weekends and weekend contact carries with it also certain costs. There are the costs of entertaining the children, taking them out. They do not just sit at home in front of the television for the weekend. Therefore, there are different costs. I am not saying that they are more, but there are different costs there, so whilst they might not be buying the school uniform, they might be doing other things and taking the children to clubs over the weekend, which is quite common, and I think that needs to be looked at as well. The fixed costs, we have not broken them down into what they might also pay, but we have just accepted the costs in the White Paper, as Barry has said.

  Chairman: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. That was extremely useful and thank you for your attendance.

15   See Ev p. 117. Back

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