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Problems with IT systems at the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission are worsening while it waits for a new system to be introduced.
In the meantime, CMEC has hired a private contractor to process an estimated 100,000 child maintenance claim cases manually, an increase of over a third since September 2009. According to a source at CMEC, a team of 200 people are being employed to 'clerically manage' the cases.
"It's an alternative system that's having to be provided eternally by the private sector at an additional cost that, frankly, the taxpayer should have never have been asked to meet," a source told Family Law Newswatch.
There are continuous problems with the current CSA computer system, not least the creation of cases that become partially or fully stuck and then need to be processed manually.
Last year a cross-party committee of MPs criticised the fact that despite a £107m upgrade of computer systems in 2008, the number of cases being dealt with manually continued to rise. Since then CMEC has introduced plans to improve their systems.
In January the government launched a Green Paper which set out its proposals to build a new child maintenance scheme and IT system. The new system will be integrated with the tax systems at HM Revenue and Customs allowing CMEC to be kept up-to-date with accurate information on the income of the non-resident parent. It is due to launch in 2012 for new customers and the Child Support Agency will be closed to new applications.
"We've had a clear plan at the Commission since we took over the child maintenance system of replacing it. These things take time to develop," a CMEC spokesman said.
"There is an issue, of course there is an issue, we've spoken about it many times and it's a matter of public record. But... there is no meltdown."
CMEC is seeking the views from interested parties on reforming the child maintenance system in a consultation that closes on 7 April 2011.