Adopt Australian CSA system of support for families, says Fathers Direct

9 February 2006

For immediate release: Thurs 9 February 2006
Contact: Jack O’Sullivan, Fathers Direct 07779 655585/ 01608 737125

The Government’s review of policy around separated families must create an extensive, new system of support for separated families alongside tough measures for a minority of non-payers, Fathers Direct, the National Information Centre on Fatherhood, said today.

Welcoming the review, the charity highlighted the success of the Australian CSA, whose holistic methods, looking at all the problems separated families face in terms of housing, work, benefits and relationships, has produced the world’s most successful system for collecting child support payments.

The Australian CSA is both efficient and effective: it collects $8 for every $1 spent; almost all separating parents now register with it, the vast majority declaring themselves either "satisfied" or "very satisfied"; more than half end up with private arrangements for the transfer of cash, based on the formula and monitored annually.

The Australian system has achieved these successes with an emphasis on prevention (for example, reaching out to newly separated dads in the workplace to help them manage their grief and keep hold of their jobs.) There is also holistic case-management in tough cases, working with both parents to identify barriers to payment, and to dismantle them. There is good inter-departmental information sharing – tax, benefits, and CSA data – backed up by staff who “get on the phone” rather than send endless letters. Finally for the small minority of non-resident parents who remain committed to non-payment, there are far-reaching enforcement powers (and a willingness to use them). The Australian government is now building serious support systems for separating families, into which their CSA is being embedded.

Duncan Fisher, chief executive of Fathers Direct, said:

‘A reformed system must endorse children’s rights to support from both parents, in terms of both cash and care. We urge the Government to learn the lessons of good practice in Australia. A reformed system of child support must be part of a broader approach to supporting separating families. It should understand better the often complex reasons – frequently based in poverty and relationship breakdown – why non-payment and lack of care occurs. It must then create proper supports around housing, benefits, work and relationship help. This holistic approach, combined with tough measures against those persistently failing to take up their responsibilities, is highly successful in achieving better outcomes for separated families. ’

Notes to Editors

Fathers Direct is the national information centre on fatherhood, an independent charity founded in 1999 to promote close and positive relationships between men and their children. It publishes the awarding-winning site and provides training, conferences, guides and briefings on fatherhood. Media inquiries: Jack O’Sullivan 01608 737125/ 07779 655585

Fathers Direct, Herald House, Lambs Passage, Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TQ.

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