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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

24 FEB 2010

Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission's IT system flawed

The new Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, which took over the Child Support Agency's functions in 2008, is "struggling" to cope with the increase in cases which cannot be dealt with by its flawed IT system, according to cross-party committee of MPs.

Despite a £107m upgrade of computer systems in 2008, the number of cases being dealt with manually had risen from about 19,000 in 2006 to 75,000 in September last year and is predicted to rise to 108,000 in September this year, the report said. Each manual case costs £967 to handle compared to £312 per case administered through the IT system.

As a result the additional costs of clerical administration of cases is about £3.7m a month and "are mounting alarmingly", the committee said.

Although the report warned that, as of September last year, 27% of absent parents were still not paying maintenance, the committee acknowledged that CMEC had made "substantial progress" in clearing the backlog of cases which built up under the CSA arrangements from 280,000 to about 55,000.

Commenting on committees' report, James Pirrie, chair of Resolution's Child Maintenance Committee said: "clients of the child support services of the Commission now routinely experience a much improved service. But it is a real pity that so many families suffered through previous attempts to develop a workable system.

"However the system cannot be called a success simply because it deals efficiently with the bulk of its cases. In particular there are still many families trapped under the old rules system and far too many cases involving high debt remain unresolved. In addition current statistics suggest that only about half of non-resident parents are actually paying the full amount they should.

"Much more is still needed and the Commission must continue to develop and improve the service it provides."

To download the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee's report, The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission and the Child Support Agency's Operational Improvement Plan, click here.

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