28/10/2015 The Wales Report


Huw Edwards takes a look at issues that matter in Wales. In this edition, he asks if the UK government's reforms of child maintenance will help or hinder families in Wales.

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Many thousands will be affected by the end of the


Child Support Agency, but will those most in need be the biggest losers?


The tax credit shambles - after this week's defeat in the House of Lords,


how will the chancellor manage to lessen the impact on families?


And is the Welsh Government doing as much as it can to boost employment


Good evening and welcome to The Wales Report.


For the past 20 years, many thousands of single-parent


households in Wales have depended on the help of the Child Support


The agency is now being replaced with the Child Maintenance Service,


It operates with a different set of rules for new claimants.


The focus is on encouraging parents to settle


things amicably without outside involvement and for many there would


There are fears already that the changes will discourage the poorest


single parents from applying, as Felicity Evans explains.


For more than 20 years, the Child Support Agency has been making all


be wrong headlines. Successive other months have tried and failed to make


it work. Many single parents and their ex-partners have found the


system inefficient, inaccurate and unjust. Jane has been struggling


with the CSA 's 44-macro years her ex-husband has exploited loopholes


and has often failed to pay maintenance for their two children.


The whole process is appalling. At 1.I was ?1800 in arrears with my


rent. I was receiving solicitors letters and I have had to borrow


money from family. It is embarrassing. I don't want to place


the children in the riddle. I told them very little. Children in


single-parent families are almost twice as likely to live in poverty


as they in two-parent households. It is important that the nonresident


parents pay their fair share. The UK Government says that by 2018 the CSA


will cease to exist. The question is will things get better for estranged


couples and their children. This is how it will work. Anyone currently


receiving payments from the CSA will have their case close. They will


have to start again in the new system by ringing a helpline. They


will be in college to reach a new arrangement, but if they can't, they


will be charged to use the new service. Nearly a third of potential


applicants that they would be put off of applying because of the fee,


but the government believes that many will change their mind. But


gingerbread, a charity that campaign to single-parent families, are


concerned. It will be a stretch for single parent families, especially


with a welfare cuts and tax credit cuts. Money is tight for a lot of


families. We are not totally convinced that many he would have


applied are making their own arrangements, but if they are and


they are satisfied that is fine. We are worried that people will be put


off by the fee. But for Jane the emotional upheaval of having her


existing case closed in going back to square one is a horrible


prospect. After a very long four-year period of fighting the


CSA, how it has affected my mental health, it has put pressure on my


family. I feel aggrieved that after four years my case will be closed


down. It is disheartening and I really don't know if I have the


capacity of the fight in me any more to continue assuming this. But the


concerns don't end there. Even if you pay the CMS to come up with a


payment schedule, it will not enforce the payments unless you


asked them to, and then there will be more fees. This is for bad


payers. It is wrong that the receiving parent will lose 4% of


maintenance because the paying parent is a bad payer. It is an


unfair price that the children are having to pay. Is this a


money-saving exercise for the government? Yes. The civil service


have been open to the Public Accounts Committee about the fact


that in some ways it is a win win for them. If charges put off people


applying to the new system, they save money because it means fewer


staff and it is cheaper to run. At the same time, they have got fees


and they are banking on getting money over the next few years from


the fees and quite frankly, we have been told that they could not run


the system if they don't get the fees. The danger is that they are


just looking at the bottom line and they are not looking at what is


going to happen to children. Our fear is that a lot of parents will


come under strong pressure to make their own arrangements. Those will


fail, they will not be encouraged to think about maintenance. There is no


promotion of the new statutory service and more and more Georgian


will grow up without getting that parental support which can make a


difference. The cost savings over the next ten years will reap over


1000 ?600 million, but the setup costs are over 400 million. We did


ask for an interview with the secretary of state or a minister,


but they said no. In a statement they said that children benefit when


their parents work together to support them and it makes sense that


we encourage families to come to their own financial arrangements.


In the week that the proposed cuts to tax credits and the impact on


poor working families have dominated debate at Westminster, the UK


Government's forms of child maintenance have received little


attention. But as let's start dropping onto the dorm outs of


single-parent families in Wales, those who support them feared the


new plans may failed the most vulnerable. I have seen families in


tears over the Eurocrat ik nightmare they have been going through and I


am not confident that that bureaucratic nightmare will not


exist with the new system. Because the CSA is being closed down


gradually, it will take time to find out how much take up there will be


of the new system. But after four years of struggling through the old


one, how much faith does Jane have in the new one? I don't know how the


CMS will improve this situation for parents like myself. The whole


system is placing the onus on the parent with care to chase the


ex-partner for payment. This is about parents refusing to pay for


their children and that is why the CSA has been here, but they have


failed and I can't see any difference whatsoever with the CMS.


Remember, you can join in the discussion online.


I'm joined now by the family law specialist Lorraine Watts,


an associate with the Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice in Cardiff.


Thank you for joining us. Our people like to be concerned and even


pessimistic about the changes? If you are a new claimants, you are OK.


Things are improving. It is taking a shorter amount of time. The fact


that the new system means they go straight to revenues and customs for


information makes things better. It is people who are dealing with the


CSA and you need to reapply who will have the rough end of the stick.


Important to clarify because a lot of people will not lead the system


in detail. When you talk about the case being closed and having to


reapply, does that mean if you have dealt with the CSA for many years


and you have an arrangement in place, that comes to an end and you


have to start a new one? That is what they are saying. They will


receive letters saying their case is closed and they need to reapply.


Surely that will cause chaos? For some people, like the lady in your


video clip, they have them through the mill. Even if the new system is


better, the thought of it puts people off, even though in reality


it might be better. We mentioned earlier that people have too pay a


fee to access this new system. It is around ?20, which for lots of people


watching may not sound very much, but what impact will it have? If you


are on a low income, ?20 is a lock. For those people they don't know how


long the process will take, what the outcome will be and how long it will


take to recoup that ?20 because if the paying parent has a low income


as well, it could take weeks. There is the cost of getting into the


system and then there is potentially the problem is someone not


cooperating. How about new system help you? Will it be more effective


than the Child Support Agency which is disappearing? I think the


enforcement will be the same. There is only so much they can do. They


already collect payment at source, it will show in your payslip. It


might encourage people to pay directly. The fact there will be a


fee of 20% added on top if you don't pay usually the mother directly. It


is a shame that there will be a 4% deduction to the recipients's money


as well. Could it not be argued that that 4% deduction will have a


negative impact on the child? It will be in a the child there is no


good for it, apart from someone going through the system just to


cross the other person 20%. That is not my experience. People just want


to receive their money every month on time and get on with their lives.


Thank you for talking to us. So this was the week,


if George Osborne's enemies are to be believed, when the Chancellor's


confident march towards Number Ten The House of Lords decided


the Chancellor's plans to cut tax credits needed serious revision,


and it inflicted a very damaging But the Chancellor


wasn't slow to respond. He railed


against the unelected nature of the Upper House, not that there's any


plan in sight to change that, and promised to look again at ways of


lessening the impact of the cuts. Unelected Labour peers have voted


down this bill. That raises constitutional issues that we will


deal with. We will continue to reform tax credits and save the


money necessary for Britain to live within its within its means.


The Conservative voice at Westminster.


But the Conservative voice here in Wales was striking a rather


different note, urging caution and a more moderate approach.


What we need to do is make sure we leave no one behind. The plans for


next April could do that. I believe that modifications are needed and


the Chancellor is in listening mode. And what do the chancellor's


Westminster colleagues make of it? With me is the Conservative MP David


Davies, chair of the Lots of people are saying we are in


some kind of constitutional crisis, but surely the House of Lords is


just doing its job? There job is to ask government to look again, but


not to throw out any measures, or financial measures. That has been


the convention for at least a hundred years. They have overstepped


the mark by doing this and they have to remember that members of


Parliament have won elections. Members of the house of lords have


not. The will of elected politicians has to be the one that prevails. But


they haven't thrown anything out. They have asked for a pause and for


some things to be looked at again. They have delayed it in such a way


to make it difficult to implement it in its original format. There was


concern over how tax credit reductions were being brought in,


albeit that they were being brought in with an increase in with an


increasing threshold for paying tax. However, unelected members of the


House of Lords have decided they are being to start blowing out bits of


government legislation they do not like. I have just been speaking to a


senior Conservative member of the House of Lords and he said the


reality is that Labour and Liberal Democrat members in particular are


angry that they lost the election. They don't see why they lost it so


badly and they are going to use the in-built majority in the House of


Lords to throw out anything they can.


Could it be they think the measure is unfair to people on low incomes


who are asked to show a burden that is not acceptable? We are going back


to the issue of tax credits. I think it was absolutely clear George


Osborne was going to come up with a transitional arrangement in the


Autumn Statement. What form should that take? What plans should come in


for people in your constituency? What is your message to them? I am a


humble backbencher and select committee chair, I do not sit in the


Treasury select cannot say what form it would take. It was an open secret


there would be a transitional arrangement brought in by the Autumn


Statement. We all know that. The Government are doing is right. We


are elected on balance the books come cannot have benefits ready out


of control. It is very well to well to Labour to say they are against it


but they also say they want to try and balance the books, maybe, I hope


you'll be asking them how they would balance the books. What services


they would cut? They are not in Government, you are in Government.


Yes, we have a duty to try and balance the books. We believe it is


wrong to spend more money than we can make. It is a projected surplus


of ?7 billion by the end of the Parliament. This measure is to save


?4 billion. You don't need to take this tax credit cut measure in order


to still have a surplus in your budget. What is it about? By the end


of the Parliament, the keywords, and we were aiming to do it early for


that we have not yet so -- succeeded at the gods -- size for borrowing


too much then the Kadcyla 's for not spending enough. We are going about


this in a sensible and reasonable fashion. And then they criticise


others. The destination we are seeking is why I support but there


were concerns, of course, that perhaps some B would lose out too


much too quickly. All of us are members and we are also elected,


including George Osborne. You are being clear, you say you also shared


his concerns? I had concerns, but all of us who are elected members of


Parliament will be in touch with our constituents all the time come


including everyone in number 11, including George Osborne. We are all


it can to me that -- and have to face are elected every five year is


and we are always listening and willing to make changes. Do you


think Mr Osborne has mishandled this? Lots of people are saying he


has handled this rather badly. What is your perspective? I think he has


handled it perfectly well. He, like all other MPs, noses comport -- it


is important that we treat everyone fairly. We asked Google for their


support and that is not the case rabbit of the House of Lords, who do


not face election, there are 850 of them. Smack for members of the house


of lords. Using their in-built majority for the Labour Party to


throw out legislation in a completely unfair fashion. It will


have to be addressed. It will either be addressed through major reform or


three huge increase in the number of Conservative members of lords being


appointed or some people are saying that we have a Welsh Assembly that


does not have a second Chamber or a Scottish parliament that does not


have a second Chamber and a brother Larry 's assembly, what is the point


of these people in your carry on like that? Ayew advocating abolition


of the eyes of lords? No, I say to the question that people are asking


and I hear it floated in the key rings. What is their purpose? In the


tea rooms. I know there are answers, I am a huge supporter of the jitters


quote the smack of the status quo. But it is upsetting and undermining


the status quo the weather behaving. To an B blues job is to oversee


things and ask to make minor amendments docking of legislation


makes me question never stop that always respected the democratic


mandate of the House of Commons that has allowed bills to pass, even with


an in-built majority from another political party that has not agreed


with the bill being passed. That has been the case for the last century


and that ended this week. Thank you. Wales has three of the 10 least


wealthy parts of the United Kingdom according to the first-ever


prosperity index published by the Legatum Institute, a public policy


think tank which measured average income per person


along with how happy people felt. The methodology has been questioned


by some Welsh Labour MPs. People living


in Anglesey have the lowest incomes while the Gwent valleys and


South West Wales are also near And wait for it -


Wales is also the least happy of the Little wonder the Wales TUC is


calling on the Welsh Government to do more to boost employment in areas


outside the cities, where private They say that new European rules


allow ministers to be more focused in the way they award contracts,


and they say the South Wales Dr Jean Jenkins from


Cardiff Business School has been to When you come to a valleys town, the


sense of people's identity and relationship to their community is


palpable. In the past, this has been portrayed as a feeling, an


unwillingness to step outside the community and look for work. People


need to get on their bikes, said Norman Tebbit, a sentiment echoed in


comments made more recently by Iain Duncan Smith. Go to Cardiff, that is


where the workers. The reality is that workers from the South Wales


valleys to travel outside their locality to work. But travelling any


distance to work is only viable if the work is reliable, hours are


predictable, rates of pay are good at transport is accessible. Look at


disadvantaged workers in the valleys communities and listen to the


practical difficulties that they face. These conditions clearly do


not apply to the sort of lower wage in unpredictable work they are most


likely to be offered in the low skilled Labour market.


The reverend Jeff only knows too well how difficult life can be for


his parishioners here when they don't have reliable work. There is


still an element of hope, an element of purpose. But there is also a


thorough dejection on occasions when we have seen initiative after


initiative that seems to have failed. The latest thing is if you


want a job, the Jobcentre will say you are prepared to travel at least


90 minutes each way to work. That is nonsense if you have children in


school, if you need to go for job interviews, that needs to be worked


in. People need quality jobs that will pay and feed a family at a


reasonable level and are not an hour or an hour and a half away. We have


relied on the private sector to remedy the situation for decades. It


has failed. The market will not address the employment problems of


the valley communities and while regeneration projects like this one


in bank Square are welcome, this alone will not be enough. So, what


is to be done? New powers over public the Kirmond were granted to


the Welsh Government in August of this year. -- public procurement.


This offers the option to bring better, secure jobs said


disadvantaged workers by reserve in public contracts for organisations


with this mission at their heart. In recent decades, private sector


employment has increasingly offered unpredictable work at low pay. Which


is no basis for life planning or even a sound basis of hope. In the


interests of the entire Welsh economy, it is surely time to change


the direction of travel for the valleys communities.


I'm joined now by Shelim Hussain - founder and director


of Cwmbran-based Euro Foods - and Alex Bevan from the Wales TUC.


Was that overly depressing? I found it a bit depressing. I have a


business in Newport for the last 24 years and now I can offer me,


watching this was very depressing. I don't think it is that bad. That is


the crucial part. What is it about the environment you are conducting


business in at the moment that you think is actually rather good? What


you need for a thriving economy like the valleys is businesses going,


private businesses going and making it happen. Every time I speak to any


ministers or anybody from the Government, I say, we don't need


hand-outs or grants, we need infrastructure. You make


infrastructure and give us the ability to do business and business


will thrive. Business goes all over the world looking for places to do


business with a can have a reliable and skilled Labour. Crucial point


about infrastructure. When we talk about infrastructure, we think of


not just the way people communicate with the way people travel. What is


your perspective on what Shirley was just saying that we concentrate on


hand-outs too much? Firstly, I think the change in the struggles to home


campaign, pushing for that in how we use that and new powers is different


to pushing for a new scheme. Different to what might be called a


hand-out or grant. It will take his -- should begin to be seen to


producing better employments of poverty and disadvantage is a temper


situation for people. If we can direct more public investment into


directly hitting the problems were those people who are disadvantaged,


young adults with qualifications, people with disabilities, that is a


better foundation for what happens the next stage for the valleys


economy. How confident are you the Welsh Government has the drive and


political will to use these powers in a way that will bring results


fairly swiftly? We think there are significant opportunities to do


something quickly on this. We met with the Welsh Government, freshman


try finance minister last week. They will establish a task force to look


at how they can make the best use of these new powers. What we have said


with that is we need pilot projects to test the concept and show can


work because we have shown a coherent and practical plan in this


work was done we have something to identify areas of funding by the


European structural funds, infrastructure budget and big pot of


procurement spend. We have said there are three areas of spending


that will happen anyway, this is committed spending, not new. This is


spending that will happen anyway, let's use it tackle the problem is


all in one place. When you talk much infrastructure, think about your


business. We want to know how you operate as a business, what is the


infrastructure spending that would make a measurable difference to the


way you conduct business? The roads and highways communications fully


staffed get to work, railways, proper bus links, sometimes it takes


longer to get some of the valley towns and go to London. That is


really frustrating. I again say that Government can put money into the


valleys and has tried to do it in the past, it has not worked. The


solution is the private sector. Make the infrastructure, deliver the


structure, and you can give business tax breaks. If a business goes to


the Vale, why should they play ?300 rates on units? To make ?300,000


rates. They will take a bite of unemployed and those people will


take -- pay taxes, the environment business friendly fist of people


will watch and say, hang on, there were problems with the private firms


being notoriously reluctant to go there. They are happy to go to


Cardiff or Newport, they're not been happy to go into the valley areas,


that is the problem. I want to send products to Birmingham. If I want to


do that, go to the Vale Comey to come to Cardiff and then go to


Birmingham. It is a 4 are journey. Give a road link since the valleys


and you will see these towns thrive. Final point, when you look


at the range of infrastructure that is needed, you have mentioned the


fact that there are spending options that were not there before. How soon


can we see a place like Eval Vale benefiting? Infrastructure takes


time. We support the development of much better infrastructure for many


of the same reasons. People are able to access better work and able to


live in the communities that they call home. In the central valleys it


is home visit and 40,000 people. One fifth of the Welsh population. -- to


640 people as. What has changed in the meantime is the world economy


for well that the impact directly on that. With globalisation and


deindustrialisation, recession and austerity, or they have wreaked


havoc in the Labour market in these areas. Infrastructure on its own


will be too late and too little. We need the investment and we want it


and we want good pay and good jobs. While you are there, we can do this


now, start to use secure employment as a foundation for the rest of the


regeneration. Support people with individual schemes that are


existing, with those schemes be better if the person had a good


employment relationship as a foundation for what happens next and


hopefully that changes the reputation for investment as well


for the valley communities. Thank you.


That's it for tonight - we'll be back next week.


And remember you can get in touch by email - the address is


Diolch am eich cwmni, nos da, good night.


Huw Edwards asks the questions that matter to you about your job, your health, your future. Calling to account the decision-makers here in Wales and beyond our borders too, each week the team bring you in-depth reports on pressing issues that matter to the lives of everyone living in Wales.

In this edition, he asks if the UK government's reforms of child maintenance will help or hinder families in Wales. And should more be done to bring jobs to the South Wales valleys?

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