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Children left behind as CSA suffers technological failings

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A newly revamped Child Support Agency (CSA) is experiencing major administration problems as a flawed IT system threatens the financial safety of countless children, reports have revealed.

The CSA underwent a £107m upgrade to its IT systems after taking over the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) in 2008. But figures show that the number of cases being dealt with manually by CSA officials has “ballooned” from 19,000 in 2006 to a predicted 108,000 this year.

“We are concerned at the almost exponential rise in the number of clerical cases caused by shortcomings in information technology,” said the report.

An investigation by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee warned that, without sufficient systems in place, payments and records within the CSA will greatly suffer alongside “alarmingly” high operational costs.

“The Child Support Agency’s Operational Improvement Plan was set out in 2006 to establish a stable platform for future reform of the child maintenance system,” stated Committee Chairman, Terry Rooney.

“Whilst we congratulate the Commission on the successes that it has achieved, we are concerned that it is struggling with an ever-increasing number of cases that cannot be managed by its IT systems.”

As the system lulls amidst technical errors, the CSA and CMEC failed to meet 2008/09 targets aimed at tracking down reluctant parents failing to pay maintenance.

The CSA has reduced a backlog of cases from more than 280,000 to 55,000. But arrears of unpaid maintenance still stand at about £3.8 billion and, in September last year, 27% of absent parents were still failing to pay maintenance to their children, with only 53% paying the full required amount.

“Ministers have taken their eye off the ball in tackling the huge backlog in child maintenance cases and the massive £3.8 billion in arrears owed by absent parents,” added Shadow Work and Pensions Minister, Andrew Selous.

“Parents are fed up with being told to act as private investigators to chase partners who are dodging maintenance payments.”

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Written by Andrew Hodges

March 7, 2010 at 11:34 am

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

Tagged with , ,

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