£300m CSA system fails 'majority' of applicants

A £300 million computer system for the Child Support Agency (CSA), which was intended to speed up cash payments to thousands of single parents, has managed to get cash to less than 4% of applicants.

While the figures are disputed, only a tiny fraction of almost 153,000 people making maintenance applications are actually thought to be receiving payments.

According to government information released by the Liberal Democrats, the struggling computer system, which delayed the government’s reforms by 18 months, continues to malfunction and has left CSA staff to use calculators in an attempt to manually work out the complex assessment formulae.

According to government information obtained by the Lib Dems, since March 2003 of the 152,564 applications received, but only 1 in 3 (53,068) of them has been processed, or ‘cleared’. Worse still, of the cases that have been processed, only 1 in 10 (5,625) has actually resulted in maintenance payments being made.

The figures also revealed that nearly 1 in 5 (17%) of the assessments were found to be incorrect. Figures on compliance, in particular those who are not paying what they should be, cannot be calculated because of "technical issues".

Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Steve Webb, said: "Children are the real losers because of the CSA’s failure to collect and enforce maintenance payments. They are missing out on the cash entitled to them because of government bungling.

"It is scandalous that this multi-million pound computer system is so completely unreliable that CSA staff are having to get pocket calculators out simply to keep the backlog down. Hard-up lone parents will rightly ask where their cash is. Taxpayers will rightly question why huge sums of public money have been wasted."

The Department for Work and Pensions refuted the claim as statistical abuse, claiming that, as around two out of five cases were considered to be closed, a much higher proportion of payments were actually being processed and made correctly.


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