The interaction of lives and policy : the issues for child support
Drawing on the findings of a small-scale qualitative survey of those affected by the Child Support Act 1991 - parents, new partners, child support officers and solicitors - this thesis focuses on the impact of this legislation on families, especially new families, concluding that financial, employment and family situations are complex and diverse and that the mechanistic and inflexible formula-based regulations introduced by the Act have failed to support children. Whilst acknowledging the real problems faced by lone parent families, this research argues that plans for reform pay insufficient attention to the fact that this issue increasingly affects two parent families, as couples separate and recombine, and that this omission has major implications for policy proposals in this area. The background to and history of child maintenance, in the context of the British welfare state, is examined, along with the fiscal crisis faced by the existing income-maintenance system. In addition, the multifarious pressures that are currently placed on the family - as regards being both the source of and the solution to the crisis in modern society - are revealed, exposing the dilemmas that face separating couples when reaching decisions about their children's futture. The current debate on poverty measurement is considered and the sample group are described in terms of the most commonly used indicators as well as in their own perceptions. The results of the research show that child welfare is a high priority - especially if considered in a wider than financial context - and that there is considerable support for community responsibility in this area. Having considered the child support systems in other countries, and with reference to the issues that policy is designed to address, proposals which embrace the welfare of all children are advanced as the starting point for meaningful child support reform.