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Tagging non-paying parents

Hold up!

See that little date above?

This post was published years ago.

My opinions have changed over time: I think it's quite fun to keep old posts online so that you can see how that has happened. The downside is that there are posts on this site that express views that I now find offensive, or use language in ways I'd never dream of using it today.

I don't believe in airbrushing history, but I do believe that it's important to acknowledge the obvious: some of what I've written in the past has been crap. Some of it was offensive. Some of it was offensively bad. And there's may be some brass among the muck (you can make up your own mind on that).

Some of what I've presented as my own views has been me—wittingly or unwittingly—posturing without having considered all the facts. In a few years, I'll probably think the same about what I'm writing today, and I'm fine with that. Things change. People grow. Society moves forward.

The internet moves on too, which means there might be broken links or embedded content that fails to load. If you're unlucky, that might mean that this post makes no sense at all.

So please consider yourself duly warned: this post is an historical artefact. It's not an exposition of my current views nor a piece of 'content' than necessarily 'works'.

You may now read on... and in most cases, the post you're about to read is considerably shorter than this warning box, so brace for disappointment.

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.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

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