Warning: This post was published more than 11 years ago.
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I read today that the Government is considering electronically tagging parents who fail to pay child support (rather unfortunately phrased as ‘those dads who are not paying for their kids’, but let’s not get into that). A simple question: Why?
The idea is to restrict the movements of people who don’t pay up. How on Earth will that help? Dad doesn’t have any money to give mum, mum doesn’t have any money, the child grows up in poverty. What does tagging achieve? Dad doesn’t have any money to give mum, dad’s movements are restricted and employability reduced so he has less chance to make some money, mum doesn’t have any money, the child grows up in poverty.
Yes, there are some parents who refuse to pay child support on principle. But they’re already able to be sentenced to six weeks in prison. Surely tagging is a lesser threat, and hence less likely to make people comply? Of course, the politicians seem to be suggesting that it’s ‘easier’ to tag someone than to send them to prison. Certainly for the CSA itself, it should make no difference, as a prosecution in a Court of Law is presumably needed for either, and given that tagging is supposed to replicate the loss of freedom in prison, surely a similar burden of proof is needed.
The CSA has never really worked properly in its entire history. It currently costs £1 in administration for every £1.85 recovered, and that doesn’t include the cost of the prosecutions handled by the judiciary, which also comes from taxpayer’s pockets. All in all, it probably costs more to recover the money than it would to just hand it out. Even Mr Blair, who rarely dares admit such a thing, says it doesn’t do it’s job properly (though why it’s taken him eight years to find that out is something of a mystery). Can we not just put it out of its misery?
Well, under a Labour government, probably not until they’ve come up with something even more bureaucratic to replace it. Why not do the simple thing of handing the job over to the Inland Revenue and taking the money out of people’s pay packet directly? Then there’s no chasing to be done, and far less administration, and far less chance of people failing to pay. But then, that’s probably too simple a solution.