I HAVE been a mother for approximately 1,825 days (that’s five years, to save you the maths!) and I have spent at least half that number of days on the phone to the Child Support Agency.
I have reasoned with them, cried to them and, on some occasions, just hung up on them.
If you Google the Child Support Agency you will find page after page of CSA horror stories where people have spent year after year on the phone trying to get what they are entitled to – child support.
You can imagine my horror, and I suspect that of thousands of others, when I heard that they were thinking of charging single parents to use this “service”.
Secretary of Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has defended proposals to charge single parents for using the Child Support Agency, stating: “We’re not asking for much.”
I feel like slapping the same statement back at him. Single parents are not asking for much when they ask for help to support their children.
I assume that this is a part of the whole “everyone should be a family” plan that Prime Minister David Cameron has for us in the UK, but he talks of it like it’s a choice.
Some, maybe even the majority of, parents that use the Child Support Agency have simply been walked out on through no fault of their own.
I think it’s great if two parents can come to an arrangement without the aid of outside help but sometimes it’s just not an option.
The Child Support Agency claim is divided into two parts – employed and self-employed.
If you’re lucky enough to have an ex-partner who is employed by a company then your claim is pretty straightforward and there’s not much wiggle room for lying and cheating on behalf of the “ex”.
For an employed parent “without care”, their information is collected from their employer.
But if you’re unlucky enough to have a self-employed parent “without care” then the reins of control loosen.
A self-employed parent without care can either send in their earnings to the CSA or their earnings can be calculated from information collected by HM Revenue and Customs.
Now I’m not knocking anyone who is self-employed but not every self-employed person puts down their exact earnings, which is the first bump in the road you can face.
The next bump is that the CSA cannot find your “parent without care” earnings through the HM Revenue and Customs. This has been the case for myself.
Apparently when the parent is self-employed and will not co-operate, the CSA has no power whatsoever.
So Mr Cameron thinks I’m going to pay £100 to be told that I’m never going to see a penny? I think not.
When the CSA can get no earnings information they set a default payment of wait for it... £5.
As most single parents know, that isn’t even going to buy you a tin of baby milk.
If they are going to start charging they should seriously consider how they are going to make this system a fair one.