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CSA to 'name and shame' absent parents

Absent parents who fail to make maintenance payments to support their children are to be 'named and shamed' on a government website.Letters are reportedly being sent from the Child Support Agency (CSA) to around 100 single parents, asking for their permission to disclose the names of former partners who are refusing to provide financial support to their offspring.If the recipients of the letters do not object within 14 days, the names of those evading payments will be posted on the CSA's website."We feel that taking this action and making an example of those who commit these offences will encourage other non-resident parents to give us the information we need straight away," says the letter."Our intention is to make it clear that it is not acceptable for non-resident parents to fail to support their children," the note adds.The initiative to cajole absent parents to provide for their children follows the publication of new legislation which will see the much-criticised CSA replaced with a new Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-MEC). Work and pensions secretary John Hutton announced the government's decision to scrap the CSA last December, with the agency accused of having failed to collect some £3.5 billion worth of maintenance payments since it was set up in 1993.The new commission which will replace the CSA will have tougher powers to force absent parents to make payments, including the power to take cash directly from the bank accounts of non-payers and seize their passports.Those who refuse to pay could also have curfews placed upon them under the new regime, while the government would also be able to charge absent parents for the cost of pursuing them for defaulting on maintenance payments.Commenting on the child maintenance and other payments bill, which details the plans, Mr Hutton said: "There are a small number of parents who seem to think that paying for their kids is something they can simply choose not to do.""These new powers will mean that non-payment brings real and lasting penalties," he stressed.However opposition parties have criticised the plans to name and shame those who skip child maintenance payments.Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman David Laws said plans to reform the CSA represented nothing more than a "gimmicky rebranding exercise" and added that it was a "disgrace" the government had taken so long to shake-up the ailing organisation. "Naming and shaming and placing curfews on absent parents who fail to pay their child support may grab a few headlines but it will be little comfort to the families who are owed up to £3.5bn in child support back-payments," he said.Meanwhile the former minister who was responsible for running the CSA after its inception warned that the initiative would fail unless confidence in the child support system was restored."You've got to have absolute confidence in the country that the system of assessing maintenance is fair before you will get public support for such tough action as naming and shaming," Conservative MP Alistair Burt told BBC Radio's Five Live.

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