Work and Pensions Committee Press Notice

Session 2003-04 PN 29




Alan Johnson called to account for failings of Child Support Agency.

Secretary of State, Alan Johnson MP is due to appear before the Work and Pensions Select Committee on Wed 17th November to explain why half of lone parents haven't received maintenance payments for their children . The meeting has been called as part of an ongoing investigation into the Child Support Agency, which introduced wide ranging reforms in March 2003.

Committee Chairman, Sir Archy Kirkwood, said 'I believe the CSA is a failing organisation, unable to deliver the service parents have a right to expect. The organisation must improve, or increasing numbers of children will suffer.'

MPs will also question the head of the CSA, Doug Smith, about the poor performance of the new IT system and the refusal to set a deadline for the transfer of cases to the new system. Of the 742,400 cases under the 'old' scheme, only 75% receive maintenance. Under the new scheme, results are even worse with only 50% of the 238,122 cases receiving maintenance payments .

Chairman Sir Archy Kirkwood said 'whilst the performance of the CSA IT system is unacceptable, problems with the Agency go much deeper. The Committee will question the CSA over its apparent reluctance to use a wide range of powers to enforce the payment of child maintenance.'

A total of £720 million of debt remains uncollected, with a further £1 billion being written off as 'uncollectable' .

This session will be held in the Grimond Room, Portcullis House and will begin at approximately 9.45am.  All meetings may be subject to change, for further information, see the contact details below.

Witnesses

Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Mr Doug Smith, Chief Executive, Child Support Agency


FOOTNOTES:

1.  Parents receiving maintenance for their children are commonly referred to as 'parents with care'.  Some parents with care may have new partners but are still entitled to receive maintenance.

2.  Cases are currently split between two IT schemes - with the agency looking to transfer the remaining 'old' cases onto the new scheme in the future. The case compliance rate for new scheme cases is 50% against a target of 78%. Old scheme cases have a  75% compliance rate, although only 50% of these are fully compliant - the remaining 25% only pay a proportion of the required amount.

3.  The CSA's Annual Report and Accounts 2003-04 reports outstanding debt of £720.16 at 31 March 2004. Of this, £140.22 million is from new scheme cases (dating from March 2003).  A further £947.7 million is classified as 'uncollectable'. Currently, almost 25% of single parents fail to receive a single penny in child maintenance.


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