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UK CSA has been abolished.

I read this article as though it was only a matter of time before our UK counterparts no longer had to contend with their equally draconian child support agency. I am slightly behind the times according to the date of this article however it is a very interesting development.

I note that there is an incurred 4% administration fee for payees and penalties apply for non-compliant payers (NB another "…deadbeat dad" reference was thrown in for sexist, misleading and policital point scoring measures) but I am left curious as to how greatly this new system will differ from the precursor and is it a new model or just a facelifted disaster?

Juliet, a single mother in the north of England, is speaking quietly so that her four-year-old son doesn't hear.

"Trying to support my little boy on my own is hard enough," she says. "Now, I don't know what I'm going to do."

Last week, with barely a whisper, the Government effectively abolished the Child Support Agency, which currently forces Mark, Juliet's ex, to contribute 20 a month to support his son.

Jamie, happily, is more preoccupied with putting the rabbit's food bowl on his head. He has no idea that his mother escaped his violent father when she was pregnant.

Juliet has been free for four years. "Only things keep dragging you back there," she says. "The Government never think what their changes mean."

With immediate effect, a new agency, the Child Maintenance Service, will deal with new arrangements for separated and divorced families where two or more children are involved and will ultimately cover all separated families.

Closure of the one million existing cases starts next year. At which point, if families want to join the new CMS, they need to reapply, start from scratch and pay an initial 20 fee.

Aimed at "encouraging" families to negotiate themselves, keeping the state involved will now have other costs, too, for both parents.

For Juliet, and thousands of women and some men in her situation, this is literally a terrifying proposition.

She knows Mark will not willingly pay a penny, but the new system will give him up to six months to comply, during which time her son may get nothing.

Under the new system, she will also have to pay new costs that will come directly from Jamie's pocket. And she worries that the extra costs charged to Mark will enrage him enough to try to find her again.

Mostly, she doesn't want to even think of her ex, let alone renegotiate with him.

Just the prospect of having to speak to him has already made the memories come flooding back.

The first time Mark, a security guard, hit her, he apologised profusely. "And from then on," she says, "it was just hell."

Years of violence and torture followed. Mark slowly cut Juliet off from friends and family. During one night of particularly humiliating and horrific abuse, he strangled her until she passed out. The next day, covered in cuts and bruises, she realised she was pregnant.

Juliet tried to escape but Mark found the phone and money she was hiding. "He smashed my head against the wall and left, locking me in the house," she says. "I had a big massive wound on my head that was bleeding.

"I climbed out of the window and ran down the street. There was blood everywhere. A man stopped his car and tried to take me to hospital but I was too frightened. He took me home with him. I thought if he kills me at least it will be an end to it.

"He cleaned me up, and gave me some money to get to my sister's. He saved my life and I don't even know his name."

Juliet's family intervened and sent her to stay with relatives. She began volunteering with homeless children, her pregnancy went on safely. "I began to get my head together," she says.

After Jamie was born, she agreed to let Mark see him once, because she didn't want to deprive her son of his father. "Mark tried to kidnap him," she says.

"He was really drunk, running at the side of the car. He opened my little boy's car door and was trying to unclip his babyseat."

Somehow, she managed to drive away.

Juliet has no doubt that after the six-month period when Mark will be given the chance to pay by himself, they will end up going through the new agency.

As a victim of domestic violence, she won't have to pay the 20 joining fee, but the penalty for not being able to resolve their situation privately will be that Mark has to pay an extra 20% of his maintenance to the CMS. And she will have to pay 4% of the maintenance she receives to the agency.

Mark already contributes only a small sum as he is unemployed and has two children from a previous relationship.

"The biggest loser in all this is Jamie," she says. "He will get less money, even though he has done nothing wrong."

The Government's own analysis shows that one in 11 100,000 families will drop out of the system entirely and stop getting maintenance for their children rather than go through the stress of reapplying.

Gingerbread, which campaigns for lone parent families, points out that in tough financial times, any missed payments could have a serious impact on children.

Juliet lost her job at a local shop last week. "We really need that money at the moment," she says. She takes a deep breath. "It's lucky we're tough, we single mums. We know we just have to pull our marigolds on."

She says the reality is that when the CSA ends she will just go without. She is so frightened that she thinks it is better for her and Jamie to lose the money. But the Government, on the other hand, will save money. And this in our ever-shrinking society, is all that really counts.
As a victim of domestic violence, she won't have to pay the 20 joining fee, but the penalty for not being able to resolve their situation privately will be that Mark has to pay an extra 20% of his maintenance to the CMS. And she will have to pay 4% of the maintenance she receives to the agency.

I would love to know if that's an extra 20% added ontop of what he has to pay or if that comes out of the actual total
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