§ Mr. Burt
The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for Miss Ann Chant, the chief executive. She will write to the hon. Member.
Letter from Ann Chant to Mr. Clive Betts dated 25 October 1994:I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security on the level of bank charges paid by the Child Support Agency to date and the extent to which they have been absorbed by client's funds held by the Agency.To 31 July 1994, the Agency has paid £173,400 in bank charges. The greater proportion of the Agency's expenditure on bank charges occurs when absent parents use Transcash to make cash payments of maintenance via Girobank. Charges are also made for the use of computer tapes to transfer money to the Client Funds Account. In addition, between April 1993 and March 1994, charges were also incurred in respect of the processing of computer tapes, direct debits, standing orders and the use of the Agency's bank's Head Office collection account for clearing cheques. Invoices for bank charges are received from the Agency's bankers and are paid from the Department of Social Security Administration and Miscellaneous Services Class XIV, Vote 4 account.No bank charges have been paid from clients' funds temporarily held by the Agency.
§ Mr. Jim Cunningham
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he intends to review the workings of the Child Support Agency.
§ Mr. Burt
The report is being published today. The report's findings on the standard of adjudication in the Child Support Agency are disappointing. However, the chief child support officer, Mr. Ernie Hazlewood, recognises the exceptional pressures faced by the agency in its first year and the extremely high level of outside attention focused on staff, many of whom were new to the work. In addition, the deliberate non-co-operation of some absent parents has made the task faced by the agency a very difficult one.
The Child Support Agency is committed to raising standards of adjudication and many of the difficulties identified in the report were recognised by the agency in its annual report, published in July. The CCSO acknowledges the plans already made by managers to effect improvement. To supplement and reinforce the work already begun, he recommends extra emphasis be given to the key areas of adjudication training, recording of decisions, periodic checks and some specific parts of the formula. The agency clearly has a long way to go to reach an acceptable standard of decision making and considerable difficulties to overcome, but recent monitoring exercises indicate that improvement has already occurred.
Both the CCSO and I look forward to continuing progress in future years.