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Children: Maintenance

Volume 458: debated on Monday 12 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how the Child Support Agency determines child maintenance amounts for payments between parents who are subject to a joint residency order with regard to the care of their child. (122128)

The administration of the Child Support Agency is the matter for the chief executive. He will write to my hon. Friend with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 12 March 2007:

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, how the Child Support Agency determines child maintenance amounts for payments between parents who are subject to a Joint Residency Order with regard to the care of their child. [122128]

For a case under old rules where, a non-resident parent has care for a child for at least 104 nights a year (that is, two nights a week on average), an allowance can be made in the maintenance formula for sharing the care of that child. The maintenance payment due to the child is then reduced pro-rate by the number of nights a week the child stays with him.

For a shared-care case under the new rules, if a non-resident parent provides overnight care for a child for at least 52 nights a year, an adjustment is also made to the amount of child maintenance due.

Child maintenance is not reduced if the child stays with the non-resident parent for less than 52 nights a year.

If the care of the child is shared on a 50 per cent. basis, the entitlement to Child Benefit will determine who the parent with care is for child maintenance purposes.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he intends, under the system proposed in the White Paper ‘A new system of child maintenance’, that child maintenance cases where both parents’ names appear on the birth certificate will be given priority over cases where the father is unknown. (123160)

There are no plans to give priority to child maintenance cases where both parents’ names appear on the birth certificate. However, as now, a person who applies for child maintenance should provide sufficient information to identify the non- resident parent.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will review the effectiveness of data collection and reporting systems at the Child Support Agency. (126358)

The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the chief executive. He will write to the right hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 12 March 2007:

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, if he will review the effectiveness of data collection and reporting systems at the Child Support Agency. [126358]

Until 2005, the Agency’s IT difficulties meant that robust information regarding cases on the new computer system was unavailable. In order to resolve these difficulties, the Agency begun working with the Department’s Information Directorate (responsible for National Statistics and Business Information) to revise and quality assure statistical data. Since then, much progress has been made.

Under the Operational Improvement Plan the management information produced by the Child Support Agency is expanding and improving. Additional tables have been made available in each successive Quarterly Summary Statistics report since September 2005, and this report now provides a much fuller picture of the Agency’s operations than has been available in the past.

The Agency’s management information and data reporting is also undergoing an increasingly robust scrutiny process. Whilst this has resulted in the recalculation of some information previously reported, it represents an important part of a process to ensure the Child Support Agency has a highly effective process of data collection and reporting.

The Child Support Agencies Quarterly Summary Statistics can be accessed online at www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/csa.asp

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress his Department is making on achieving targets set out for the Child Support Agency under the operational improvement plan. (126361)

The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the chief executive. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 12 March 2007:

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 progress his Department is making on achieving targets set out for the Child Support Agency under the Operational Improvement Plan. [126361]

The initial phase of the Operational Improvement Plan has focused on the organizational 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.

However, 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 the Agency was providing:

More money for more children—58,000 more children were in receipt of maintenance or had a maintenance-direct arrangement in place.

A higher proportion of non-resident parents paying or using maintenance direct—59 per cent of new scheme cases with a liability made a payment or arranged Maintenance Direct (up from 54 per cent)

A fall in uncleared applications of 13 per cent (across both schemes) since March 2006 which in the last three months have been at their lowest since comparable records began in May 1999.

Applications cleared more quickly: 55 per cent 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)

Improving Client Service—The Agency answered 97 per cent of queued calls over 12 months (up from 90 per cent)

I hope you find this answer helpful.