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Child Support Agency

Volume 461: debated on Monday 4 June 2007

What assurances can the Minister give the House that when the new body—the child maintenance and enforcement commission—is operational, it will not repeat the mistakes of the past, in which hundreds of thousands of families were failed, and in which the parent with financial responsibility was often excluded and marginalised? Does he agree that families need fairness, but they also need fathers?

If the hon. Lady studies the report that Sir David Henshaw undertook for us and the subsequent White Paper that we issued on replacing the Child Support Agency with a new operation, she will see that we have addressed the very issues that she raises. I think that there is consensus across the House that the CSA’s performance was not up to standard, and I think there is acceptance that reforms that were introduced along the way, and which were designed to improve its performance, have not delivered the results that all of us in the House wanted. That is why we came to the view that there had to be a fresh start, and a different way of doing things and of offering a system of child maintenance. The scheme set out for the new commission is fundamentally different from that of the old CSA in many respects. The hon. Lady will see just how different the scheme is if she carefully studies the White Paper, the proposals and the Bill that is to be introduced shortly. The scheme holds out the prospect of the new body delivering the standard and quality of service to its clients that we hoped for, but never managed to achieve, under the CSA.