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Child Support Agency: Genetics

Volume 459: debated on Thursday 3 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many DNA samples have been taken by or, on behalf of, the Child Support Agency (CSA) in each year since its inception; in what circumstances and on what grounds the CSA may require someone to take a DNA test; how many DNA tests resulted in maintenance being demanded from those tested; how and by whom any DNA data obtained by the CSA are stored; for how long such data are stored; and to which other departments, agencies or authorities they may be made available. (130878)

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 3 May 2007:

In reply 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 many DNA samples have been taken by or on behalf of the Child Support Agency (CSA) in each year since its inception; in what circumstances and on what ground the CSA may require someone to take a DNA test; how many DNA tests resulted in maintenance being demanded from those tested; how and by whom any DNA data obtained by the CSA is stored; for how long such data is stored; and to which other departments agencies or authorities it may be made available. [130878]

The Child Support Agency does not require DNA tests to be carried out but may suggest a DNA test in cases where the parentage of a qualifying child is disputed. The parent with care and alleged non-resident parent must consent to such a test, as must the qualifying child if he or she is over the age of 16. If the alleged non-resident parent refuses to take a DNA test, the Agency may assume parentage and proceed accordingly.

The information requested concerning the number of DNA tests undertaken on behalf of the Child Support Agency is provided in the attached table. However information is unavailable prior to 1997/8 and the Agency does not record information on how many DNA Tests result in the pursuit of maintenance from those tested. We do know that on average since 1997/98 around 84% of tests return a positive result and it may therefore be reasonable to assume that in these cases a maintenance assessment will be undertaken. We do not have figures on how many of these assessments result in a positive maintenance assessment and are subsequently pursued as there may also be other circumstances in which maintenance is not pursued, for example, if the parent with care requests the case be closed.

DNA samples are stored in a secure environment by the Agency’s contractor. Access to the data is restricted to laboratory staff, and managed by swipe card access controlled doors, alongside a number of other security measures. The case data is retained by the contractor for 3 months, and case records are kept for 1 year after the case has been resolved, after which they are destroyed by shedding and incineration.

Finally the CSA does not routinely share data relating to individual DNA tests with any other Departments, Agencies or authorities.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

Number of DNA tests undertaken on behalf of the Agency

Number of tests taken

1997-98

3,750

1998-99

4,173

1999-2000

3,317

2000-01

2,938

2001-02

2,346

2002-03

4,146

2003-04

2,444

2004-05

2,888

2005-06

2,454

Note:

CSA clerical MI is used from 1997/98 to 2001/02 for the number of tests taken. MI from the DNA test contractor is used from 2002/03 onwards for the number of tests taken.