Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Families Need Fathers


  The proposed rejig of Government policy on child maintenance will fail again. It is based on the same assumptions as before. Namely that when parents separate the responsibility for the care of the children falls to one parent. These assumptions are unacceptable to non-resident parents.

  The economic problems of families which have divided will increasingly "lie where they fall", firstly because most arrangements will be voluntary and secondly because C-MEC will not be able to deliver.

  A positive way forward should be based on modern, egalitarian and child welfare considerations. To promote the sharing of the care and thus the cost of children in divided families. C-MEC will need to deal only with a residue. It should face up to social reality, where there are many different parenting arrangements, not one crude model, as in the White Paper, of one parent "caring" and the other "paying".

  The main effects of this policy will be felt in the reduction of social problems among children, young people and adults that are created or aggravated by insufficient or unbalanced parental attention as well as in the CSA.

  This is a long-term policy, but each step will bring benefits.

  The policies require joined up thinking largely outside CSA/C-MEC itself.

  Child support arrangements should serve the best parenting of the children, instead of being imposed irrespective of the damage they do.


  Families Need Fathers exists to promote the need of children whose parents live apart to have the full involvement of both their parents. Our first task is social care work.

  It is the duty of all parents to provide for them in direct care—the more important matter—and economically.

  The majority of parents who come to us about the CSA are victims of maladministration or making protests at the parenting arrangements imposed on their children and themselves.

  It has become acceptable to lead the CSA a dance. To report this is not to approve of it. The ingenuity and determination of people to frustrate it—and any similar agency—should not be underestimated.

  Compulsion yields only minimal and resentful compliance.


  Both traditional and modern fathers seek to be "providers". Current provisions for separation needlessly destroy this motivation. Parents share their income, voluntarily and with pride and pleasure, with children with whom they share a life.

  Our warnings that were would be massive problems of resistance were ignored at the start. We have repeated this warning with each attempt to relaunch the CSA.


  Prevention is better than cure. The need for a child maintenance policy lies in inequality in income between the parents, and inequality of costs and responsibilities between them. Social policy should remove these.

  An example—Maternity and paternity leave. The current proposals are to extend maternity leave finally up to a year. Maternity' rights should be divided into two. The first phase is for the physical needs of the mother. The second, and much longer phase, is to provide a carer for the baby. That should be available equally to both parents. Currently, only the mother will have rights. If the parents break up, the mother will be able to claim the baby's almost exclusive bonding. The father will become excluded. He will get on with his life. He is likely to become a CSA defaulter. The mother's position, both as carer and employee, will become problematic. The situation to which the CSA is supposedly "the solution" would in fact have been created. Consider the alternative. The consequences for the mother, child and society of the baby and father bonding permanently. Child support provisions might not be needed at all. If they were, it would be a light touch.

  In a full paper, FNF would develop other examples.

Changes in the law

  The law needs amending to give explicit recognition to the rights of children to both their parents. The current law is too vague to be a guide to social behaviour. A presumption of proper recognition of the rights of children, which is what we propose, would be rebuttable. It would be no more incompatible with the "welfare principle" that other presumptions concerning children.


  A totally clean slate so that the wretched experience of the CSA can be put aside. This involves the complete and final abolition of the CSA and the cessation of its activities. A partial amnesty for debts and the making up to lone parents of money due.

  The next stage would be evolving the strategy for the parenting of children of family division along the lines suggested.

  There would need to be some interim arrangements. We have suggestions. They would involve the following: the sharing, pro rata care, of state payments to parents; this to include a restored lone parent benefit often shared between the parents; the exemption from the need to transfer money between households of those with shared care; generous disregards of CM for tax, income support and tax credits; quite high rates of transfer between parents one of whom was genuinely not contributing in cash or kind to child care; a requirement to be available for work for parents who had child care from the other parent available to them.

John Baker

30 December 2006

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