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Child Support Agency

Volume 301: debated on Tuesday 25 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many cases have been dealt with by the Child Support Agency since its formation; and how many complaints regarding the CSA were received during the same period. [16167]

We expect the Child Support Agency to provide an efficient and effective service to all its clients throughout the child support assessment process. We are looking for substantial and sustained operational improvements from the Agency, in particular on getting more maintenance paid, reducing the backlog and improving customer service.The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Mrs. Faith Boardman. She will write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Faith Boardman to Mr. Denis Murphy, dated 24 November 1997:

I am replying to your Parliamentary Question concerning the number of cases dealt with by the Child Support Agency, and complaints regarding the Agency.
From its inception in April 1993 to the end of October 1997, the Agency has taken on over 2.2 million cases.
During the same period, the number of written complaints received by Child Support Agency Centres (or, in a few instances, field offices) amounted to just over 109,000. This represents the vast majority of complaints sent to the Agency. Correspondence received by Ministers and the Chief Executive is not categorised, and it is not possible to say what proportion of that correspondence relates to complaints. Full figures are not available for the first year of operation, but since April 1994, all such correspondence has totalled over 37,000.
I am very conscious that there are still far too many justified complaints about the standards of basic customer contact and the service we provide. It is a key priority of the Agency to improve the way in which complaints are handled; we have revised our training for all staff who deal with complaints and introduced a new Complaints Guide. The Guide sets out our policy and procedures for swift, effective complaints handling.
Although the number of complaints reduced in 1996/97 (by around 20%), we are aware that as we tackle our backlog of cases, there is the potential for the volume of complaints to rise in the short term and we recognise that doing things right first time is the key to preventing complaints.
In addition, from April 1997 the Office of the Independent Case Examiner has provided an independent complaints investigation service for those customers who consider that the Agency's internal review process has not satisfactorily resolved their grievances. At the end of September 1997, the number of cases accepted for investigation by this service was 148.
Over the next few years, I am committed to bringing high quality levels of performance to every part of our operation as a matter of routine, thereby reducing the number of complaints received and enhancing the public perception of the Agency.

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the planned date of publication of the report on the review of the Child Support Agency. [17650]

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the current review of the Child Support Agency will be completed. [17148]

We aim to bring forward proposals in the first half of next year.