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Fathers should be made to meet child maintenance responsibilities

A new report by think tank Policy Exchange has claimed that non-resident fathers on benefits should be made to work if they refuse to take financial responsibility for their children.

The report estimates that there are up to 65,800 absent fathers who have been out of work for six months or longer. Because these men pay very little, the Child Support Agency (CSA), the body which is tasked with collecting these payments, has tended to put more emphasis on collecting child support from fathers who are working. This means that responsible fathers have ended up paying for their own children, and contributing through their taxes to the child support costs of other, less responsible fathers.

The report says that it is time the government forced these men to take responsibility for their actions. It makes a number of recommendations:

  • Impose work obligations on absent fathers claiming benefits. Any absent father who has been claiming Jobseekers Allowance for six months or longer would be fast tracked onto a work experience programme. If the alternative is working for benefits, people may be more likely to leave benefits and take paid work. Men who refuse to participate should forfeit their right to benefits.
  • Require both mother and father to include their names on the birth certificate. Currently, the law requires only that the mother’s name be registered at the birth of a child, and more than 30,000 babies are born each year in Britain without the father’s name being recorded on their birth certificate. Including both parents on the birth certificate would ensure that all children know who their father is, and fathers can be held properly responsible for the children they have produced.
  • Child maintenance payments remain in place for each child regardless if the parent goes on to have more children with new partners. This should encourage people not to have children they cannot afford to look after. A recent piece of research by Policy Exchange shows that two thirds (66%) of the public support capping benefits at three children.
  • Exempt single parents claiming Income Support from paying a fee to access the CSA.
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