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Domestic Violence

Volume 301: debated on Tuesday 25 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security in what ways the issue of domestic violence victims is included in the training programmes of (a) Benefits Agency and (b) Child Support Agency staff. [14393]

On 6 October 1997 it was announced that, from April 1998, BA staff will be undertaking some CSA activity (the issue and completion of Maintenance Application ForMs (MAF)) on their home visits to lone parents.Child Support legislation has provisions, known as "good cause", which allow Parents with Care (PWCs) not to co-operate if the CSA finds that they have good cause not to co-operate. This may be because they believe there is a risk of harm or undue distress to the PWC or any children living with them which may arise from the CSA contacting the absent parent. It is therefore important that staff receive training to deal sensitively with such issues when they arise and are aware of when such problems may be an issue.CSA staff receive awareness training on the "requirement to co-operate" provisions of child support legislation which includes the "good cause" provisions. All CSA staff who are required to interview PWCs about an absent parent receive further training on how to manage sensitive issues, such as domestic violence, and how to deal with such cases for child support purposes.The BA has arranged for staff to receive the equivalent training given to CSA staff where they are dealing with similar situations at interviews. Although the completion of MAFs does not involve in-depth interviewing about good cause, BA staff need to be aware of possible sensitivities where a PWC does not wish to complete a MAF. All front-line BA staff i.e., receptionists, visiting officers, will receive the CSA MAF completion training customised for BA. BA staff who will carry out good cause interviews will receive further training similar to that given to CSA staff.Training courses for BA staff have been piloted and, following further quality assurance, training will begin in January 1998.