HC Deb 15 April 1991 vol 189 cc11-2
11. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how the Child Support Agency will assist lone parents.

Mr. Newton

The Child Support Agency will be a purpose-built organisation with a single aim of providing an efficient and effective service for all families for whom child maintenance is an issue. The use of an administrative formula to calculate child maintenance will produce consistent and predictable results, introduce the opportun-ity for regular review and reduce the scope for dispute.

Mrs. Gorman

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. I entirely support the Government's intention to ensure that three quarters of absent parents who presently do not support their children should be made to do so. Has he thought about the fact that what mothers in such cases need is the money in their hands? Having been made an award, they will not necessarily get that money unless the father can be tracked down and made to pay. The award that the Government will have made is a negotiable document for the mother. In the private sector, one could factor such an award—go to a bank or some other organisation and be able to get the money up front. When we discuss the Bill in the House, will my right hon. Friend consider introducing that idea into it?

Mr. Newton

I note my hon. Friend's suggestion. The main point that I would make in reply is that one of the groups for whom the use of the agency will be compulsory is lone parents on income support. In those cases, it is difficult to see quite what they would gain from my hon. Friend's proposal, because if maintenance does not come, income support does. The state is providing a guaranteed income.

Dr. Godman

Will lone parents in receipt of income support, especially mothers bringing up children on their own, receive any assistance by way of advice and representation when they apply for community care grants or crisis loans from their local DSS offices? Are not women in such circumstances often in need of professional advice, especially when challenging decisions taken by adjudica-tion officers?

Mr. Newton

Perhaps for good and understandable reasons, the hon. Gentleman is taking us rather wide of the subject of the Child Support Agency. I would certainly hope that, in line with much that has happened in recent years, and referring back to the question about the Benefits Agency, there will be a continuing improvement in the advice and assistance that the Department, along with many other organsiations, is able to offer claimants.

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