Session 2003-04 PN17

Work and Pensions Committee Press Notice

'Select Committee extends its deadline for submissions to their inquiry into the performance of the Child Support Agency'

The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has announced an inquiry "to examine the performance of the Child Support Agency (CSA), with particular reference to the Agency's compliance and enforcement regime."  The Committee has now decided to extend its deadline for submissions to 1 July 2004.

After an 11 month delay, on 3rd March 2003, the Agency began accepting new maintenance claims under the new child support scheme. In the first year of delivery 321,522 new applications for child support were received; 91,429 received maintenance calculations and 31,115 first payments were made through the Agency. In addition, there are currently 829,400 'old' cases (those taken before 3 March 2003) that are still calculated under the old scheme. The Department has said that no cases would be moved over to the new scheme until they are satisfied that the new arrangements are working well for new cases. It is still not clear when this might be.

Under the old scheme, compliance and enforcement have long been problematic for the CSA. Current figures show that 54% of cases are fully compliant, 25% are non-compliant and a further 21% are partially compliant. At previous evidence sessions with the Agency and the Department, the Committee has expressed strong concern about the enforcement regime, drawing particular attention to the Agency's reluctance to use enforcement powers, including the threat to withdraw driving licences from non-compliant parents. 

The CSAs business plan for 2004-05 identifies several priorities for the year including: ensuring that the new arrangements work well; being in a position to migrate and convert existing cases to the new arrangements; improving enforcement; and supporting staff.

Issues the Committee might want to investigate include:

  • The general performance of the CSA in running two child support schemes simultaneously.

  • The progress of case migration from the old to the new scheme.

  • The Agency's compliance and enforcement regime: how can the compliance rate of non resident parents be improved? What measures can be taken to improve enforcement of maintenance assessments?

  • Debt reduction: what steps are being taken to reduce debt and what more can be done?

  • Staffing issues and job losses: what effect has delayed implementation of the new system and the forthcoming job losses had on staff and  what effect will they have on customer service?

The inquiry will not cover problems caused by the new IT programme . These are being dealt with in a separate inquiry by the Work and Pensions Sub-Committee.

The Committee hopes to hold oral evidence sessions from the summer and welcomes written submissions in accordance with the guidelines below.

Evidence submitted should:

  • be on A4 paper, including letterhead with full postal address and contact details;

  • begin with a one page summary;

  • have numbered paragraphs;

  • avoid the use of colour or expensive-to-print material;

  • be in a form which is easy to photocopy; and

  • be accompanied, if possible, by a disk (with the document in Word format).

Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.  Submissions can be sent via workpencom@parliament.uk.

* If submitting by e-mail, PLEASE also include full postal address and contact details. *