FOI, DNA and the CSA

Hundreds of thousands of pounds will have to be refunded by the Child Support Agency (CSA) in maintenance payments to over 3,000 men after DNA tests revealed that they had been wrongly named by mothers in paternity suits.

Under CSA rules, men must start paying maintenance as soon as they are named by mothers as the father of the child. They can challenge the ruling by asking for a DNA test but will have to pay for the test themselves. Men who are cleared of paternity receive a refund for the DNA test and any maintenance they have paid.

Figures released by the CSA after a freedom of information request revealed that 3,034 men have been found to have been falsely accused by women of being the father out of 15,909 who have taken the test since 1998. The CSA has not recovered money from any of the mothers. Refunds to the wrongly accused men have come from the taxpayer.

Frank Field, former social security minister and Labour MP for Birkenhead, said yesterday: "The situation in the CSA is getting so absurd that even Lewis Carroll would have rejected it as a script for Alice in Wonderland."

Child Support Agency forced to pay back wrongly accused men (The Guardian, 29 November 2005)