Select Committee on Work and Pensions First Special Report


New Child Support Scheme: Progress Report

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Alan Johnson)

The new arrangements for child support came into operation for new cases and some linked old scheme cases from 3rd March 2003. Despite recent progress, some significant problems remain with the new computer and telephony systems. These continue to slow progress on business recovery. The Department continues to retain substantial payments from EDS. The payment each year is determined by the contract and is linked to service levels and to the degree of functionality delivered. Between 27 January 2003 and 16 January 2005, the Agency retained £13.3 million of payments otherwise due to EDS.

This report is intended to form part of the Department's response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee report into the performance of the Child Support Agency. It therefore includes information up to the end of February 2005 (my last progress report covered the quarter ending September 2004). During this period the Agency's performance has continued to improve. More families continue to benefit from the new scheme - a further 16,600 families have received child maintenance premium. The quarter ending December 2004 produced the highest quarterly total since the new arrangements were introduced and this upward trend is continuing. It brings the total number of beneficiaries to almost 50,000. Similarly, the number of first payments of maintenance received through the Agency's collection service during the quarter ending December was the highest achieved so far.

The number of cases cleared during the period from October to February (both calculations and closures) was over 72,000, bringing the overall total of clearances to around 310,000. The position fell back somewhat in the run up to Christmas, however this was not unexpected and the underlying position is recovering as we move through the next quarter. During both October and November, the monthly volume of clearances grew faster than at any other point in the year.

Based on regular monthly sampling the current level of accuracy (to the nearest penny) is estimated at around 78% against a target of 90%. This is lower than the preceding quarter. The Agency is taking urgent action to correct this trend but it is now clear that the end of year target is unlikely to be achieved. Regular monthly sampling will continue to be used to monitor accuracy levels and determine the end of year position.

As a result of improvements with the Agency's management information systems, case compliance performance will now be reported on a 'Rolling-Last-Quarter' basis. Previously published estimates of case compliance in the new scheme have been measured on a monthly basis. This is not consistent with either the definition used to measure old scheme compliance, or the basis on which the new scheme target was set. Both relied on a Rolling Last Quarter measure. Reporting performance using a Rolling Last Quarter basis provides a more accurate reflection of performance and gives a direct comparison between old and new scheme performance.

This change in reporting has resulted in an uplift in case compliance performance by around 8 percentage points. At the end of February case compliance stood at 65% against a target of 78%. Cash compliance at end of February stood at 58% against a target of 75%. Focus on improving compliance continues, with activities targeted on core operational service teams together with the creation of the Agency's Enforcement Directorate. Early indications show that for cases newly calculated in September and October 2004, case compliance in February 2005 has stabilised at around 75%.

Although the rate at which work-on-hand is increasing has slowed down, clearances are still less than intake. An Agency Business Transformation Programme is being developed, which will contain short-term tactical initiatives and also places significant emphasis on ensuring medium to long-term sustained recovery.

The Agency has made progress in investigating the anomalies in its management information. Some over counting of cases has been identified, which has reduced intake reported since March 2003 by 34,000 cases. Indications are that there is potential for further reductions in intake of around 12,000 cases and an understatement of around 17,000 clearances. Overall this is likely to equate to a downward revision in the work on hand of 63,000 cases. Some of these cases are still within the system and some operational intervention will be required. Work is continuing to identify and examine the full range of issues and apply necessary remedies. The revised data in the tables below is the Agency's best current estimate.

Summary of Agency Performance to February 2005

Table 1 - Average Weekly Payments

The method by which these figures are calculated has been changed to include, in the calculation, those collections of child maintenance made (on behalf of the Secretary of State) in those cases in which the parent with care is on benefit.
1 Qualifying Child 2 Qualifying Children 3+ QualifyingChildren
Average Weekly Payment1 £28£41 £44

Table 2 - Agency Quarterly Performance
Quarter 1

Mar - Jun 2003

Quarter 2

Jul - Sep 2003

Quarter 3

Oct - Dec 2003

Quarter 4

Jan - Mar 2004

Quarter 1 Apr - Jun 2004 Quarter 2

Jul - Sep 2004

Quarter 3

Oct - Dec 2004

Jan - Feb 2005Scheme to Feb 2005
Applications received





69,39546,718 594,263
Double counting of intake 2 - 1,171- 5,313 - 6,997- 6,027 - 5,211- 3,316 - 3,406- 2,395 - 33,836
Applications received (adjusted) 2 72,41173,669 78,30977,625 77,88370,218 65,98944,323 560,427
Applications cleared 3

of which:

12,64838,583 49,45351,876 45,09740,465 3 39,64532,732 310,499
Maintenance Calculations 6,67123,857 29,67231,229 25,65723,526 3 23,81618,866 183,294
Closures 4 5,97714,726 19,78120,647 19,44016,939 3 15,82913,866 127,205
First payments made through the Agency 4615,164 11,47314,017 14,97415,098 18,1199,992 89,298
First Child Maintenance Premium payments made 6 773,314 6,1737,484 8,0708,055 10,3006,326 49,799

Table 3 - Agency Monthly Performance
October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 Quarter 3

Oct - Dec 2004

January 2005 February 2005 Jan - Feb 2005
Applications received 24,65324,868 19,87469,395 22,53624,182 46,718
Double counting of intake 2 1,412 1,108 886 3,406 1,153 1,242 2,395
Applications received (adjusted) 2 23,24123,760 18,98865,989 21,38322,940 44,323
Applications cleared 3

of which:

14,17115,307 10,16739,645 14,71018,022 32,732
Maintenance Calculations 8,3178,648 6,85123,816 8,78310,083 18,866
Closures 4 5,8546,659 3,31615,829 5,9277,9395 13,866
First payments made through the Agency 5,6816,278 6,16018,119 4,7365,256 9,992
First Child Maintenance Premium payments made 6 3,1393,685 3,47610,300 3,0983,228 6,326

Table 4 - Agency Compliance Performance
Apr 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 Aug 2004 Sept 2004 Oct 2004 Nov 2004 Dec 2004 Jan 2004 Feb 2004
Cash Compliance [3 month rolling average] 7 41% 44% 49%50% 51%52% 53%55% 55%58% 58%
Case Compliance [rolling last quarter basis] 55%57% 59%61% 61%62% 62% 63% 64%65% 65%


1. Average weekly child support maintenance payments to parents with care are shown in the table. The method by which these figures are calculated has been changed to include, in the calculation, those collections of child maintenance made (on behalf of the Secretary of State) in those cases in which the parent with care is on benefit. Figures are for February 2005 only and are calculated as the total amount received and allocated divided by the number of cases.

2. Based upon our best information on the extent of the double-counting of applications that has taken place and emerging findings from the Management Information Improvement Project. These figures may be subject to change.

3. Figures from Quarter 4 2003/04 onwards and Scheme to Date figures include clerical cases (new scheme cases unable to be progressed on the new system). Quarter 2 2004/05 figures also incorporate some adjustments to take account of a reconciliation of clerical cases. The clerical case position is as follows:
  Scheme to date June 2004 Scheme to date September 2004 Scheme to date December 2004 Scheme to date February 2005
Applications cleared 1,345 2,130 2,340 3,063
Maintenance Calculations 1,134 1,937 2,069 2,673
Closures 211 193 271 390

4. 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.

5. Closures for February include 1,000 un-progessable cases that have been deleted from the IT system.

6. 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.

7. Cash compliance is measured on a three-month rolling average basis, as this best illustrates performance. Case compliance is measured on a rolling-last quarter basis (in line with old scheme reporting).

8. 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.

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Prepared 24 March 2005