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Child Support Agency

Volume 531: debated on Monday 18 July 2011

21. What steps he is taking to prevent disagreements between parents in their dealings with the Child Support Agency. (66550)

Does the Minister agree that one of the causes of conflict between both resident and non-resident parents is the unacceptable delays that their cases face when being processed by the Child Support Agency, and has she any plans to bring measures forward that would reduce those delays?

The average wait at the moment is more than two months for a new application to be processed, and that can lead to non-resident parents unavoidably accruing arrears—a problem that we inherited with the present very difficult system. We have plans to undertake a fundamental reform that will considerably improve this, and lead to a much shorter time for processing claims, which will bring considerable benefits.

Has the Minister had any discussions with the Secretary of State for Education about the future of Sure Start? The Conservatives, before they were elected, gave a solemn commitment to retain Sure Start, yet in Coventry the cost is being passed on to the local authority.

Order. That question was extremely tangentially related to dealings with the Child Support Agency—but I am sure that the Minister’s ingenuity means that she will adroitly cope.

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about the potential importance of Sure Start in child support. Indeed, we are talking to our colleagues in the Department for Education about possible opportunities for Sure Start to work with the Child Support Agency. We already have a trial—set up under the previous Administration—looking into that issue, and Ministers in that Department have ensured that sufficient funding is in place to keep the Sure Start network working.