§ Mr. Kevin Hughes
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what steps are taken to ensure that, when a maintenance assessment is calculated, the Child Support Agency takes into full account the settlement of financial affairs made in the courts between former partners.
§ Mr. Burt
Calculation of maintenance by the Child Support Agency is based on the current needs of children, and the current income and outgoings of their parents. The maintenance formula which the agency uses, while not making any direct allowance for capital or property settlements, does take account of the practical consequences of such agreements, since the current housing costs of absent parents are allowed for in calculating their maintenance liability, and a capital settlement may affect the assessable income both of the absent parent and of the parent with care. In such cases, where the practical 753W outcome is that the absent parent has higher costs or lower income, his maintenance liability will consequently be less.
§ Mr. Kevin Hughes
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment his Department has made of the performance of the Child Support Agency in the first six months of its operation since April.
§ Mr. Burt
The Child Support Agency is still a new business. Ministers and officials of the Department meet the chief executive regularly to discuss the agency's performance. The agency has made a determined start on its important task of ensuring that more children receive more maintenance more regularly.
§ Mr. Kevin Hughes
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what number of maintenance assessments his Department has set as a target for the Child Support Agency to handle in the first 12 months of operation; and what other performance targets have been set.
§ Mr. Burt
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has set a limited range of targets for 1993–94 which are set out in the agency's published business plan. They are60 per cent. of people with the care of children making eligible applications to the CSA to have maintenance arranged;annual benefit savings of £530 million;to maintain the Agency's resources so as to deliver its Business Plan within a total budget of £115 million;65 per cent. of clients to regard the service as satisfactory, as measured by an independent national survey;to meet a set of milestone targets which relate to major initiatives.Accommodation. Open Child Support Agency Centre at Birkenhead and Plymouth by 31 October 1993.Recruitment and training. Recruit and train sufficient numbers of staff to begin operations at Birkenhead and Plymouth Centres by 31 October 1993.Staff resources. Develop further the complementing system in the light of live running to inform proposals for staff in the 1994 Public Expenditure Survey.Child Support Computer System. Implement by 30 June 1993 Release 1.1 of the Child Support Computer System.Service planning. Child Support Agency Centres and Divisions to produce service plans in time to inform the 1994 Public Expenditure Survey.
§ Mr. Dewar
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) in how many cases considered by the Child Support Agency at the latest date for which figures are available the parent with care has declined to reveal details of the absent parent or to sign the authorisation; in how many of these the explanation has been accepted by the Child Support Agency and no further proceedings taken; and in how many cases investigations are continuing;
(2) how many cases there have been at the latest available date for which figures are available where the parent with care is a man; and what percentage these represent of the total number of cases dealt with by the Child Support Agency;
(3) how many absent parents have appealed against the sum fixed for maintenance by the Child Support Agency; and what percentage this is of the total number of such assessments issued;754W
(4) how many and what percentage of the total number of Child Support Agency authorisation forms signed at the latest date for which figures are available have been signed by a parent with care in receipt of income support;
(5) how many completed maintenance assessments and what percentage of the total so completed relate to cases where the parent with care is in receipt of income support at the latest date for which figures are available;
(6) what is the average period between the issue of an inquiry form to a parent with care and the fixing by the Child Support Agency of the sum to be paid in maintenance by an absent parent;
(7) what is his best estimate of the administrative cost of processing an individual case by the Child Support Agency from the initial reference of the parent with care to the final assessment of the absent parent's maintenance payment and of the average collection costs in a full year;
(8) what estimate he can give of the administrative costs of the Child Support Agency in the first year of its operation;
(9) how many cases there have been at the latest date for which figures are available in which there has been a deduction from income support because of a refusal by a parent with care to supply information about an absent parent;
(10) in how many cases considered by the Child Support Agency, at the latest date for which information is available, the absent parent has disputed parenthood; and in how many of these cases court proceedings to establish parenthood have been instituted or are pending;
(11) how many maintenance assessments have been issued (a) in total and (b) in each of the Child Support Agency's regional centres at the latest date for which figures are available;
(12) what estimate he can give of the average sum assessed for maintenance by the Child Support Agency where there is (a) one child, (b) two children and (c) more than two children at the latest date for which such figures are available;
(13) how many authorisation forms have been signed by parents with care (a) in total and (b) in each of the Child Support Agency's regional centres, respectively, at the latest available date for which figures are available;
(14) how many staff are presently employed by the Child Support Agency (a) in total, (b) at headquarters and (c) at each of the regional centres.
§ Mr. Burt
The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for Ros Hepplewhite, the chief executive. She will write to the hon. Member and a copy will be placed in the Library.
Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Mr. Donald Dewar, dated 27 October 1993:As Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency it is my responsibility to answer questions about relevant operational matters. I am therefore replying to your recent Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Social Security about various aspects of the work of the Child Support Agency.I should perhaps first explain that the information refers to the period 5 April to 30 September 1993 except where otherwise indicated, and that the Agency does not distinguish whether a Parent with Care of children or an Absent Parent is male or female.You ask about cases where the requirement to co-operate has been an issue. The number of such cases to 30 September 1993 is 6,600, and in 4,900 of these the Agency has accepted that the Parent with Care had good cause not to co-operate in pursuing a 755W maintenance claim. Of those cases in which "good cause" was not accepted, only 22 have been referred to the Benefits Agency for the prescribed benefit reduction.As regards appeals, at 30 September 1993, 2,825 clients had requested a review of their maintenance assessment, representing 7.7 per cent, of the total number of maintenance assessments in the same period. In addition the Independent Tribunal Service had approached the Agency for a report in 86 appeal cases. The Agency does not distinguish between appeals made by Absent Parents and Parents with Care.You ask specifically about Income Support claimants. To date, 527,000 Maintenance Application Forms (MAFs) have been issued and of these 385,000 (ie, 73 per cent.) were in respect of parents with care on Income Support, 328,000 MAFs have been returned but the number of these which relate to Income Support clients is not known as this information is not collected. Information on MAFs returned and maintenance assessments completed and broken down by CSA Centre (CSAC) is contained in Annex A.Information on the time taken to process maintenance applications is not yet available but we anticipate that this will take between 6 and 12 weeks in a straightforward case and longer in more difficult cases.You ask about the Agency's costs and I should explain that the fees, £44 for the Agency's assessment service and £34 for the collection service, are based on the full economic cost of administering the Agency's services to its clients. The Agency's administrative budget for 1993–94 is £115 million (ie, £95 million in running costs and £7 million in capital costs) and £13 million in other costs. This information was contained in the Agency's Business Plan. No changes have been made to the agreed budget.With regard to disputed paternity, there have been less than 1,000 cases to date of which fewer than 20 have been referred to the courts to be resolved.Figures on the average amount of maintenance assessment payments are not yet available. The Child Support Act provides for maintenance to be assessed by means of a standard formula, which will result, on average, in payments of £40-£50 a week. This compares to the £25-£30 a week which was previously the average maintenance payment.Information on staff employed by the Agency is contained in Annex B.I hope you will find this reply helpful. A copy will appear in the Official Report and a copy will also be placed in the Library.
Maintenance assessments completed Year to 30 September 1993 Belfast CSAC 3,862 Birkenhead CSAC 7,582 Dudley CSAC 7,420 Falkirk CSAC 7,074 Hastings CSAC 4,892 Plymouth CSAC 5,780 Total 36,610
Maintenance assessment forms returned Year to 1 October 1993 Belfast CSAC 68,100 Birkenhead CSAC 61,100 Dudley CSAC 58,100 Falkirk CSAC 56,700 Hastings CSAC 38,200 Plymouth CSAC 46,500 Total 328,700
Staffing Staff employed by the Child Support Agency at 1 October 1993 Number CSA Total 14,594 Headquarters 231 Birkenhead CSAC 368 Dudley CSAC 512 Falkirk CSAC 439 Hastings CSAC 568 Plymouth CSAC 363 Belfast CSAC2 431 1 This figure includes CSA Local Office and 723 part-time staff. 2 This figure represents those staff in Belfast who deal with cases from Great Britain. They are Northem Ireland Civil Servant and do not appear in the total Agency figures shown above.