A POOLE father has told of his shock at discovering that the Child Support Agency could see how much money he had available on his credit card.

Stephen Bailey, 49, pays child support for his son direct from his Sunseeker salary.

But, after a recent reassessment, he was told by the agency that he owed arrears of almost £300 and needed to pay straight away – or see his monthly payments increase.

He told the Daily Echo: “I said I couldn’t afford to do that. They said ‘Mr Bailey, you have £617 left on your credit card.’ I said ‘How do you know that?’ “I was flabbergasted.”

He said he didn’t resent paying child support, adding: “I’ve got nothing to hide – I haven’t got huge amounts of money in my bank.”

But he was shocked about the powers the CSA had.

“It’s more than chilling that they’ve been given these sorts of powers – it’s terrible.

“All I want to do is make people aware of it because it’s not right.”

He has now paid the arrears on his credit card.

A spokesperson for the Child Support Agency said: “In pursuing outstanding child maintenance payments, the CSA needs to be able to distinguish between parents who genuinely cannot pay and those who are attempting to dodge their responsibilities.

“To help them, agency caseworkers have access to commercially available information which provides guidance on a person’s credit worthiness. Caseworkers do not routinely have access to bank account information.”

In respect of their wider powers the CSA said there was no “general power” to look into bank accounts and credit cards, but under certain circumstances, they could impose a deduction order – whereby they can instruct a bank to make a child maintenance payment without the account holder’s permission.

To do this they first use credit reference agency information, which can include details of the balances in any accounts held.