[holding answer 23 February 2007]: 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 29 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 percentage of child maintenance claims were cleared within 18 weeks during the last six months for which the Child Support Agency was accepting applications to the old scheme; and if he will make a statement.
The Agency begins to process new applications as soon as they are received and continues until they have been cleared. Any applications that have not yet been cleared can be regarded as outstanding. The amount of work required to achieve clearance and the elapsed time it involves varies considerably depending on, amongst other things, the circumstances of the parents and how readily they cooperate with the Agency. As such, the Agency holds only a negligible number of completely unprocessed applications.
An old scheme clearance is defined under the following circumstances; if a maintenance assessment has been carried out; a parent with care has been identified as claiming Good Cause or is subject to a Reduced Benefit Decision; the application is identified as being a change of circumstances on an existing case; or the application has been closed. This differs from the definition of a new scheme clearance, which also includes further work in agreeing and setting up a collection schedule following the completion of a maintenance calculation.
68 per cent of child maintenance claims received on the old scheme in the period from 1st September 2002 to 28th February 2003, the last six months for which the Child Support Agency was accepting applications to the old scheme, were cleared within 18 weeks.
As you will be aware, the Agency has committed in its Operational Improvement Plan, published in February 2006, to improve performance in this area such that 80 per cent of new applications will be cleared within 18 weeks of receipt by March 2008.