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Parents back new child support

MOST parents who pay or receive child support believe the new scheme implemented in full on July 1 is fairer than its predecessor, research for the Child Support Agency shows.

Based on a sample of 300 payers and 300 payees, the research shows that by August 63 per cent of parents who received support, and 76 per cent of payers, agreed the system used a more balanced formula to work out payments. The proportions in agreement had increased since May last year when the first survey was undertaken. More than 1.4 million parents are in the child support scheme.

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Mr Matt Miller GM of the CSA and Minister Joe Ludwig.

The Minister for Human Services, Joe Ludwig, presented the findings to a private meeting of the Child Support National Stakeholder Engagement Group on Thursday.

He told the meeting he understood the introduction of the new system had been a trying time for parents. But the research showed confidence in the system had been boosted by the new rules.

"We have a fairer child support scheme in place which should be allowed to be bedded down before we consider further significant changes," he said.

Groups representing child support payers and payees are both lobbying the Government to make further changes, especially for the high proportion of low-income parents who are worse off under the new system.

Research released in August by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs showed almost 50 per cent of child support recipients had lost some income under the new scheme.

The Howard government initiated the changes, the most significant in 20 years. It recommended a new formula that took into account for the first time the incomes of both partners on an equal basis, the costs of children, and the costs incurred by non-resident parents who have children for at least one night a week.

The telephone survey of parents' perceptions had a sample error of 5.5 per cent.

It shows that earlier this year paying parents were concerned with only 58 per cent expecting the new initiatives to make the system fairer. But after its introduction support rose 17 per cent.

Both payers and payees believe the agency is putting greater effort into delivering more money for children of separated parents, with 64 per cent of payees (up from 52 per cent last year) in agreement, and 70 per cent of payers.

However, Mr Ludwig told the meeting the hard numbers from the agency showed only 50 per cent of paying parents paid their child support in full and on time. A large number did not lodge tax returns within a reasonable time, and an estimated 30,000 may be deliberately avoiding child support through the use of income minimisation schemes. In the last 12 months an extra $73 million had been collected as a result of stepped up compliance by the agency. This would help offset the $70 million in reduced income to separated families that had resulted under the new rules.

Researchers at the Australian National University have begun a more detailed analysis of the impact of the new scheme over time involving 5000 parents.

by Adele Horin, SMH, 11th October 2008.

Ministers speech including graphs added

Attachment
A fairer child support scheme in place

Edited

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