|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 376As Chief Executive of the Contributions Agency I am responsible for answering questions about relevant operational matters. I have been asked to reply to your question about possible plans to disqualify CCN Datacom BV from tendering for the computer processing of National Insurance records.
When I wrote to you on 24 January 1994 in response to your earlier question I explained the procurement policy adopted by this Agency in its Market Testing (not privatisation) activities. CCN Datacom BV were invited to tender for the Contributions Agency's Data Entry operation along with the current In-House service provider and 3 other private sector companies. As part of that process, everyone invited to tender is entitled to seek clarification of the Agency's requirements.
A representative of CCN Datacom BV, apparently acting on her own initiative, telephoned an ex-colleague who now works within the data Entry Group of this Agency, seeking information about the current operations. This approach was not in accord with the Agency's requirements for the supply of information. The incident was immediately and thoroughly investigated. It was concluded that no evidence exists that any information of a confidential nature or which could give the company an unfair advantage had been disclosed. CCN Datacom BV has stated that it was unaware of the action of the employee and has apologised for the breach of procedure.
After a careful review of the facts it was decided that there were insufficient grounds for excluding the company from the tender exercise. The 2 key issues in reaching this decision were that the approach was at a level where information of any significance was unlikely to be forthcoming and in fact no information of any importance was passed over to the company. Nevertheless, CCN Datacom are now well aware of the Agency's view on the matter, and that even relatively minor breaches of the correct procedure will be taken extremely seriously.
I hope that I have clarified the facts of the matter but if you do have any further queries I would be pleased to discuss them with you.
Mr. Bradley : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make an estimate of the cumulative spending and savings made on the various changes to national insurance benefits since 1979, in the format of his answer to the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth) of 6 July 1992, Official Report, columns 85-86.
Mr. Hague [holding answer 25 January 1994] : Such information as is readily available is given in the table. Meaningful estimates of the cumulative expenditure effects of earlier policy measures could not be derived, except at disproportionate cost.
|1988-89|1989-90|1990-91|1991-92|1992-93|1993-94|Total ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Offset of occupational pension against unemployment benefit |-15 |-63 |-66 |- |- |- |-173 Unemployment benefit rules changes |- |-21 |-49 |-55 |- |- |-141 Widows benefit measures |- |22 |13 |13 |13 |- |69 Abolition of pensioners earnings rule |- |190 |386 |401 |412 |- |1,529 Statutory sick pay measures |- |- |-72 |-86 |-92 |- |-269 New RMO procedures |- |- |- |-8 |-8 |-8 |-25 Statutory sick pay: 80 per cent. reimbursement |- |- |- |-181 |-190 |-197 |-587 Statutory sick pay higher rate freeze |- |- |- |-109 |-119 |-125 |-365 Statutory sick pay/child benefit measures |- |- |- |3 |3 |3 |9 Statutory sick pay standard rate freeze |- |- |- |- |-20 |-21 |-42 Carer's package |- |- |- |- |- |1 |1 Invalidity benefit: new medical control procedures |- |- |- |- |- |-108 |-108 Statutory sick pay higher rate freeze |- |- |- |- |- |-21 |-21 Notes: (a) All figures are expressed in millions. They are in cash terms except for the totals which are expressed in real terms ( 1993-94 prices). (b) It should be noted that only the costs/savings to National Insurance benefits have been shown. The figures therefore should not be regarded as the actual costs/savings arising from individual policy measures.
Mr. Burt : Where an absent parent does not within 28 days enter into an arrears agreement or where he does not keep to the terms of the agreement interest is charged on the arrears of child maintenance at a rate of 1 per cent. above the base rate current at the time. Where an agreement is entered into and for as long as its terms are adhered to no interest is payable.
Mr. Ingram : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many of the applications to the Child Support Agency between April and December 1993 involved absent parents on income support ; and how many of these absent parents on income support are now having £2.20 deductions made from their benefit ;
(2) how many section 18 reviews of child support officers' decisions had been requested by the end of 1993 ; how many of these had been resolved by that date ; in how many of those the decision had been advised ; and what is the average number of weeks that the outstanding reviews have been awaiting decision in each Child Support Agency centre ;
(3) how many section 6 child support applicants have argued that they are at risk of harm or undue distress to date ; in how many of these cases the reasons were accepted by the Child Support Agency ; in how many of those cases the reasons were accepted by the Secretary of State without the need for an interview, by the Secretary of State after interviewing the parent with care, or by the child support officer ; how many parents with care subsequently gave the authorisation or information ; and how many reduced benefit directions have been issued in the first nine months of the Child Support Agency's activity ;
(4) how many maintenance applications had been terminated without a maintenance assessment by the end of 1993 ; and if he will give a breakdown of these cases, in particular giving the numbers due to section 6 applicants withdrawing claims for income support and family credit ;
(5) how many child support accounts had been set up by the Child Support Agency by 31 December 1993 ; how many of these accounts had arrears outstanding at that point ; how many arrears notices had been issued ; and how many deductions of earnings orders had been issued by the Child Support Agency by the same date ;
(6) how many maintenance application forms have been issued to family credit claimants to date ; how many of these have resulted in a maintenance assessment to date ; and of those how many of the accounts are in arrears ;
(7) what proportion of the existing income support parent with care caseload has been taken on by the Child Support Agency by the end of 1993 ; and what proportion he estimates will be taken on by April 1994 ;
(8) how many maintenance assessments had been issued by the end of December 1993 ; how many of these were category A interim assessments ; how many category B interim assessments ; and how many were nil assessments ;
(9) how many of the letters requesting appeals against child support officers' decisions to child support appeal tribunals have been received within the 28-day limit ; and how many of those received after the 28-day limit were accepted because of special reasons ;
Column 378(10) how many appeals had been made to child support appeal tribunals by the end of 1993 ; how many of these appeals have been heard by that date ; and in how many of those the child support officer's decision has been overturned.
Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Mr. Adam Ingram, dated 8 February 1994 :
I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Social Security on a number of aspects about the operations of the Child Support Agency.
The number of maintenance assessments made in the period from 5 April 1993 to 31 December 1993 involving absent parents who were in receipt of income support was 24,300. I understand that to the quarter ending 30 November 1993, the Benefits Agency had made deductions from income support in 6,330 cases.
From 5 April 1993 to 31 December 1993, section 18 reviews had been requested in 12,000 cases. 2,100 of these had been cleared and the decision revised in 1,100, of them. The 9,900 cases in action reflects a rise in numbers in recent weeks. Information on clearance times is being collected but, because of relatively low volumes of cleared cases, is not yet statistically valid.
From 5 April 1993 to 31 December 1993, the cases of 35,600 parents with care were considered in relation to the requirement to cooperate. Of cases so far completed, good cause was accepted in 20, 500, the absent parent was named in 7,100, and 160 were referred to the Benefits Agency to consider implementation of a Reduced Benefit Direction. No information is kept as to the numbers of cases where good cause was accepted without any interview of the parent with care by a member of the Agency's staff.
From 5 April 1993 to 31 December 1993, 79,800 cases were cleared without a maintenance assessment. Of these, 32,600 were withdrawn. As, to date, 96 per cent. of parents with care have been in receipt of a prescribed benefit, it can be assumed that this will apply to nearly all the withdrawn applications.
From 5 April 1993 to 31 December 1993, 183,000 maintenance application forms were issued to parents with care on family credit. You also asked how many of these have resulted in a maintenance assessment, and how many of the accounts are in arrears. I am afraid that we do not collect information that breaks down maintenance assessments or account activity according to the benefit status of the parent with care.
At 31 December 1993 the Agency had taken on 275,700 existing income support cases. It is estimated that by April 1994, around 290,000 cases will have been taken on.
At 31 December 1993, a total of 121,600 maintenance assessments had been completed. Of these 41,000 were interim maintenance assessments, where the Agency did not have sufficient information to make a full assessment, and 28,300 were assessments where the absent parent was assessed as having insufficient income to pay any maintenance other than the £2.20 deduction from benefit. It is not possible to provide separate figures for Category A and Category B interm maintenance assessments.
At 31 December 1993, I understand that the Child Support Appeal Tribunal Central Office (CSATCO) had received 577 valid letters of appeal within the 28 days time limit. A total of 81 letters of appeal had been received that were outside the 28 day time limit, and all of these were accepted as valid by the resident chairman of the Child Support Appeals Tribunal.
At 31 December 1993, the Agency had received 535 appeals from CSATCO and 48 resulted in tribunal hearings. Of those heard, 10 resulted in the Child Support Officer's decision being overturned. You also requested information on child support accounts, arrears and deductions from earnings orders. I regret that the information is not currently available.
I hope that you find this reply helpful.
Mr. McMaster : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of replies issued by the Child Support Agency in response to individual inquiries from right hon. and hon. Members are in standardised format ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 380Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Mr. Gordon McMaster, dated 9 February 1994 :
I am replying to your Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the use of standardised replies from the Child Support Agency to Members' letters.
The Agency does not issue standardised replies to Members although standard paragraphs may be included, for example, to explain the provisions of legislation or to give some background to the Agency's operations. Where correspondence concerns an individual client, the Agency seeks to address the specific concerns raised by the Member on behalf of the constituent.
I hope that you find this reply useful.