The government's troubled Welfare Reform Bill has suffered another blow with the House of Lords voting against a proposal to charge single parents to use the Child Support Agency by the biggest margin since the coalition gained power.

Nearly three-quarters of the House agreed with Conservative peer Lord Mackay's assertion that it would be unfair to charge lone parents in situations where their ex-partners had failed to or couldn't pay maintenance.

This latest defeat follows the Lords block on plans to create a £26,000 benefits cap (http://jfhc.co.uk/government-under-pressure-child-benefit-health-care-bills.aspx) and the Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Nursing joining forces to officially oppose the Health Bill (http://jfhc.co.uk/midwives-urge-government-scrap-health-bill.aspx).

Fiona Weir, chief executive of single parent charity Gingerbread, said: "The Government plan to charge parents to use the CSA in order to 'incentivise' them to instead make private arrangements.

"But in reality most single parents go to the CSA as a last resort - when they have to, not because they want to.  If a child's other parent simply won't respond or refuses to pay, these government proposals will penalise the parent with main care and her children.  That's plainly unfair."

The alternative proposal by Lord Mackay, who originally introduced the Child Support Act back in 1991, would give exemption from proposed application and collection charges of up to £200 to parents who have no alternative because private arrangements are impossible or inappropriate.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said that the government will seek to overturn the defeat in the House of Commons adding that they were "disappointed that the Lords seem content to leave in place a system that has consistently failed children".

Posted 26/01/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com