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Telegraph UK

Mothers wrongly identifying fathers in Child Support Agency claims

Mothers are wrongly naming men as the fathers of their children in claims for maintenance payments, according to new figures.

The Telegraph, UK, By Graham Tibbetts, 01 Aug 2008

Almost one in five paternity claims handled by the Child Support Agency end up showing the woman has deliberately or inadvertently misidentified the father.

Just under 5,000 paternity claims have been shown by DNA tests to be false since paternity testing figures began to be collected in 1998-99.

Under child support legislation it is a criminal offence to make a false statement or representation, and to provide false documents or information.

However, no woman has ever been prossecuted, according to the CSA.

Figures for 2007/08, compiled using the Freedom of Information Act, show that out of 3,474 tests ordered, 661 or 19 per cent identified the wrong man - the highest yet.

The negative results for tests taken in 2004/05 were 10.6 per cent, while they were 16.4 per cent the following year and 13.6 per cent in 2006-07.

It is not clear whether the cases involve mothers misidentifying men maliciously or accidentally.

Government-approved paternity tests are carried out by private companies and cost £250 for two adults and child to be tested. They are considered to be 99.99 per cent accurate.

If the named father is proved to be the actual father then under CSA rules he must pay for the cost of the test.

However, if he is not the father then the taxpayer rather than the mother picks up the bill.

The government has spent £9.37 million on paternity tests since 1998.

Men must pay maintenance from the moment they are named as the father of the child.

Chris Grayling, Conservative spokesman for work and pensions, said: "This is an extremely worrying trend and one where proper action should be taken.

"If some CSA claimants are getting away with making false applications, it will not only slow things down for other families, but it also sends the wrong message about the things we're willing to accept."