On 19 June the English Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in the case of Rowley v Child Support Agency. The case arose from the question of whether it is possible to obtain compensation from the CSA, and if so, under what circumstances such a claim might be brought.

Denise Rowley, a divorced mother of three, was attempting to claim back compensation from the CSA for alleged mistakes that were made in making child maintenance payments to her, as a result of what Ms Rowley's lawyers consider to be negligence on the part of the Agency.

Lord Justice Dyson, however, did not agree with this line of argument. He and his two fellow Appeal Court judges found that it would not be reasonable nor would it be fair to impose a duty of care on the CSA to avoid economic loss. Significantly, the imposition of any such obligation would mean placing an obligation on, by extension, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The Department of Work and Pensions welcomed the judgment as it confirms their general approach of emphasising the responsibilities of parents in the first instance, rather than the state. Other observers, however, have condemned the outcome of this case as very bad news for the parents and children that they argue have been let down by the CSA over the past decade. It seems certain that the newly installed Secretary of State, Peter Hain, will have his plate full over the coming months in dealing with fresh attempts to challenge the CSA's position in the courts.