The 1991 Child Support Act

Failure Foreseeable and Foreseen

  • Leanne McCarthy-Cotter

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxi
  2. Leanne McCarthy-Cotter
    Pages 1-31
  3. Leanne McCarthy-Cotter
    Pages 33-44
  4. Leanne McCarthy-Cotter
    Pages 133-171
  5. Leanne McCarthy-Cotter
    Pages 173-190
  6. Leanne McCarthy-Cotter
    Pages 191-224
  7. Leanne McCarthy-Cotter
    Pages 225-230
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 231-262

About this book


“In this meticulous study, Leanne McCarthy-Cotter traces the unhappy career of the 1991 Child Support Act - one of several misbegotten effects of Britain's dalliance with 'Thatcherism'. In particular, she warns against the uncritical transfer of policy ideas which might have been successful in one socio-political context to another country, without consideration of the very different factors at play. Apart from its obvious value to serious students of British politics, this book also provides policy-makers everywhere with an invaluable 'not-to-do' list.”
—Mark Garnett, Lancaster University, UK 

This book assesses the 1991 Child Support Act and demonstrates how its failure was ‘foreseeable’ and ‘foreseen’. It provides an understanding of the creation, and failure, of the Act, as well as providing an examination of the British policy-making process. The book re-introduces the ‘stages approach’ as an appropriate framework for examining policy-making in general, and analysing policy failure in particular. It draws on evidence gained through interviews, official documents, unpublished consultation responses, Parliamentary debates, and materials from pressure groups and think-tanks, as well as academic literature. The 1991 Child Support Act is seen as one of the most controversial and notorious policy failures in Britain. However it has received relatively little academic attention. An in-depth analysis of the policy-making process that led to the development and passage of this deeply flawed policy has largely been neglected: this book fills that gap.
Leanne McCarthy-Cotter is Head of Policy for a UK trade union. Dr McCarthy-Cotter’s research is in the fields of governance, policy, and legislation studies, particularly focusing on policy design.


stages heuristic policy analysis framework policy process public policy lone parent single mothers New Right benefits social policy problem definition strategic representation imagery policy transfer core executive policy streams Parliament consultation policy implementation perfect legislation

Authors and affiliations

  • Leanne McCarthy-Cotter
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SheffieldSheffieldUK

Bibliographic information