§ The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Andrew Smith)
The new arrangements for child support came into operation for new cases and some linked old scheme cases from 3 March 2003. Progress has been slower than anticipated, chiefly due to problems with the new computer and telephony systems that are being progressively remedied by EDS, the service provider. Recovery has now proceeded to the stage at which the agency has sufficient confidence in the system's ability to handle new applications to permit it to undertake its own recovery programme to improve compliance and increase its clearance rate. The Department will continue to withhold substantial payments from EDS until more satisfactory system performance has been achieved.
1 Qualifying Child 2 Qualifying Children 3 Qualifying Children Average Weekly Payment £33.25 £47.95 £53.49
Summary of Agency performance to June 2004 Agency Performance Quarter 1 Mar-Jun 2003 Quarter 2 Jul-Sep 2003 Quarter 3 Oct-Dec 2003 Quarter 4 Jan-Mar 2004 Quarter 5 Apr-Jun 2004 Scheme to June 2004 Applications received 73,582 78,982 85,306 83,652 83,094 404,616 Applications Cleared 12,648 38,583 49,453 51,8761 45,0971 197,6571 of which: 6,671 23,857 29,672 31,2291 25,6571 117,0861 Maintenance Calculations Closures2 5,977 14,726 19,781 20,6471 19,4401 80,5711 First Payments made through the Agency 461 5,164 11,473 14,017 14,974 46,089 First Child Maintenance Premium payments made 77 3,314 6,173 7,484 8,070 25,118
The number of cases cleared was 45,000, taking the total number of clearances (calculations and closures) to over 197,000. The total number of cases cleared continues to rise but, clearly, we need to do much more and the agency has instigated a programme designed to drive performance improvement and build on the progress made during 2003–04, with further emphasis on achieving positive outcomes for families.
The poorest families are starting to gain significantly in real terms from the new system with the introduction of the child maintenance premium. This last quarter saw a further rise—the highest quarterly rise to date—with over 8,000 first child maintenance payments being made and bringing the total number of beneficiaries to over 25,000.
Whereas under the old system, most cases were closed before calculations were made, the reverse is now true. The ratio between those cases reaching calculation compared with those that closed remained consistent with previous quarters at around 6:4, comparing favourably with the ratio of 4:6 under the old scheme.
Technical issues precluded the reporting of reliable figures on compliance and throughput during 2003–04 and this, in turn, has impacted the agency's ability to manage performance improvements. We still do not have complete, fully accurate or timely information on compliance. The best information now available suggests that, in March 2004, just over half of those non-resident parents due to make payments did so.
The agency is in the process of validating the compliance information it has for this quarter with the aim of providing this in future quarterly reports. We expect performance to improve progressively over the next year or so as the new arrangements move into steady state and better information is made available to support performance improvements.
A special exercise was undertaken to test accuracy at the end of 2003–04. At the end of the first year of the new scheme, 82 per cent. of decisions checked were accurate to the nearest penny (against a target of 90 per cent.).
Average weekly child support maintenance payments to parents with care are shown in the table. Figures are for June 2004 only and are calculated as the total amount received and allocated divided by the number of cases.95WS
Agency Performance (April 2004 to June 2004) Apr-04 May-04 Jun-04 Total in Quarter Applications Received 28,530 27,933 26,631 83,094 Applications Cleared 14,729 14,809 15,559 45,097 of which: Maintenance Calculations 8,515 8,428 8,714 25,657 Closures2 6,214 6,381 6,845 19,440 First Payments Made Through the Agency 5,164 4,745 5,065 14,974 First Child Maintenance Premium Payments Made 2,813 2,546 2,711 8,070 Notes: 1. Quarter 4 2003–04 totals, Quarter 1 2004–05 totals and Scheme to Date figures include clerical cases (new scheme cases unable to be progressed on the new system).
Figures for these are as follows:
Scheme to March 2004 Scheme to June 2004 Applications cleared 824 1,345 Maintenance Calculations 715 1,134 Closures 109 211 2. Closures: Applications close for a variety of reasons. The main reasons are that the parent with care withdraws the application, perhaps due to reconciliation, or having agreed private arrangements with the non-resident parent. 3. A proportion of cases that have a maintenance calculation in place may already be receiving payment directly, but will not be reflected in the figures shown above. 4. Figures for child maintenance premium payments include an estimate of the number of parents who receive the premium by way of a disregard to their income support/income-based jobseekers allowance.