HC Deb 28 July 1997 vol 299 cc19-20
24. Mr. Gibb

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will make a statement on the changes she has announced relating to the Child Support Agency. [9052]

Mr. Keith Bradley

As indicated when we recently debated the Child Support Agency, we intend to look closely at all aspects of the work of the Child Support Agency to ensure that it provides an efficient and effective service. Our key objectives for the agency during the coming year are to sort out cases faster, tackle the backlog of work and pursue fathers who avoid paying. With this in mind, an additional £15 million a year will be invested in the agency from 1998–99 specifically aimed at getting more absent parents to pay. This is expected to result in an extra £121 million in maintenance payments.

The Social Security Bill, introduced on 9 July 1997, also contains proposals to simplify and speed up the child support decision-making process.

Mr. Gibb

Can the Minister state precisely how the £15 million will yield the £120 million extra savings which he just said it would yield?

Mr. Bradley

That money will be used across the board to improve the efficiency of the Child Support Agency. We shall look particularly at out-of-hours work, including the telephone system, to try to ensure that people have better access to the agency so that their problems can be sorted out quickly and efficiently, and to ensure that parents pay the maintenance that they should pay.