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As of December 2006, 55 per cent. of Agency cases were cleared within 12 weeks, up from 49 per cent. on December 2005, and 74 per cent. of cases were cleared within 26 weeks, up from 64 per cent. in December 2005. Further, as of December 2006 the number of uncleared new scheme applications stood as 186,000 and the total number of uncleared cases in the last three months has been the lowest since comparable records began in 1999.
Mrs. Maria Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what additional amount of unpaid maintenance debt has been recovered in each month since the introduction of the Operational Improvement Plan; what new debt accrued in each month; what maintenance remained uncollected in each month; and if he will make a statement. 
In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.
You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what additional amount of unpaid maintenance debt has been recovered in each month since the introduction of the Operational Improvement Plan; what new debt accrued in each month; what maintenance remained uncollected in each month; and if he will make a statement.
The Operational Improvement Plan announced in Parliament on 9(th) February 2006 and launched in April 2006 aims over the next three years to improve our service to clients, increase the amount of money we collect, achieve greater compliance from non-resident parents and as a result achieve a reduction in child poverty and a better standard of living for many more children.
The initial phase of the Operational Improvement Plan has focused on the organisational and operational restructuring of the Agency, and the training of our people to increase our capacity and capability. No commitments were made for the first year but once this phase is complete we can expect to see more clearly the benefits of the Plan.
Even now early results show improvements in several key areas and more money is already getting to more children; at the end of December 2006 compared with a year ago:
58,000 more children were in receipt of maintenance or had a maintenance direct arrangement in place
59 per cent of new scheme cases with a liability made a payment or arranged Maintenance Direct (up from 54 per cent)
Uncleared new scheme applications were down by 13 per cent (across both schemes) since March 2006 and in the last three months have been at their lowest since comparable records began in May 1999
55 per cent of applications were cleared within twelve weeks (up from 49 per cent and meeting target level for March 2007) and 74 per cent within six months (up from 64 per cent)
The Agency answered 97 per cent of queued calls over 12 months (up from 90 per cent)
The Operational Improvement Plan included plans to contract out some of the outstanding debt owed to parents with care, to private debt collection agencies. By the end of January 2007 just under £750,000 had been collected by these agencies. A letter sent by the Agency to inform clients that their debt is to be transferred to the external debt collection agencies had also resulted in an additional £640,000 collected by the Agency by the end of January 2007.
During the year ending March 2006 a total amount of £13.5 million was collected through specific legal enforcement work, an average monthly amount of £1.1 million. This has increased to £13.53 million between April and December 2006, giving a monthly average of £1.5 million.
The Agency continues to improve the collection of child support maintenance arrears and during the year ending March 2006 a total amount of £80.8 million was collected, an average monthly amount of £6.7 million. This has increased to an average monthly amount of £7.3 million between April and December 2006.
The attached table states the average debt growth and the total debt outstanding at the end of each month since the implementation of the Operational Improvement Plan.
I hope you find this answer helpful.
|Annex A: the average debt growth and total outstanding debt each month since the implementation of the Operational Improvement Plan|
|2006||Average debt growth per month over previous 12 months (£ million)||Total outstanding debt at the end of each month (£ billion)|
1. The above figures have not been audited. Figures will not be finalised until the publication of the CSA Annual Report and Accounts.
2. Figures are rounded to the nearest million.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much (a) his Department and (b) its agencies spent on external consultancy in each year from 1996-97 to 2006-07; and if he will make a statement. 
|n/a = Not available|
(1) Jobcentre Plus and The Pension Service were established as agencies in April 2002.
(2) The Disability and Carers Service was established as an agency in November 2004.
(3) The Rent Service became part of DWP in April 2004.
(4) The Appeals Service moved to the Department of Constitutional Affairs in April 2006.
Mrs. McGuire [holding answer 5 March 2007]: The information is as follows: (a) The Department will be taking the steps outlined in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Public Authorities)(Statutory Duties) Order 2006 (No. 2930) which are due to come into force on 6 April 2007. The Departments Gender Equality Schemes were published on 1 December 2006 and set out the strategy for gender equality.
(b) Each business within the Department has committed to objectives for addressing areas of concern and for ensuring that we meet the requirements of the Gender Duty. These objectives were set out in action plans for each business, which were published in the Gender Equality Schemes on1 December 2006.
Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 30 March 2006, Official Report, column 1200W, on departmental cost, how much was spent on (a) involuntary and (b) voluntary staff exit schemes in (i) his Department and (ii) each agency of the Department in each year since 2005-06; how much is planned to be spent for 2007-08; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. McGuire: The amounts spent by the Department and its agencies on voluntary staff exit schemes in 2005-06 are set out in the following tables The in-year costs for each agency include lump sums paid to individuals on the day of departure, plus Annual Compensation Payments for exits in that year and from previous years. They exclude Annual Compensation Payments for future years.
A proportion of the ongoing annual pension payments for early retirement cases are held centrally and included in the Departmental Corporate Units line.
The actual expenditure for the Department and its agencies on voluntary staff exit schemes to January
2007 and are forecast for February and March 2007 is set out in the following table.
The Appeals Service is no longer an agency of the Department.
1. The Appeals Service is no longer an agency of the Department.
2. The forecast is based on the £176 million Early Release Fund budget already identified for businesses in 2007-08. Further funding is likely to become available and allocated at the start of the financial year.
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