HC Deb 27 June 1996 vol 280 cc251-2W
Mr. Nigel Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has for further changes to the administration of the Child Support Agency. [35204]

Mr. Moss

I am pleased to announce that a new Child Support Agency compensation scheme has been introduced in Northern Ireland following its introduction in Great Britain.

The scheme includes a provision to make compensation payments for delays in issuing maintenance application forms, MAFs, which are issued to the parent with care, and maintenance enquiry forms, MEFs, which are issued to the absent parent.

Where the assessment is completed before 1 April 1996, compensation will be considered where a delay exceeding three months, for which the agency is culpable, and which leads to a loss of opportunity to receive child maintenance which would otherwise be received, occurs. Where the assessment is completed on or after 1 April 1996, however, payments will be made if the delay exceeds one month, unless the agency needs to make further inquiries before issuing a MEF, when the delay period will be two months. The respective delays in cases where the assessment replaces an existing court order are six months, two months and four months.

Additionally, a new type of consolatory payment will be introduced. In cases where the agency is culpable of sending a MEF to a person who is not the parent of the child, or children, in question, that person will be entitled to a consolatory payment of £100 to compensate for the upset and inconvenience caused by this error. This new payment will apply where the MEF is issued on or after 1 April 1996.

These changes build on the existing arrangements which cover other losses incurred as a result of maladministration. They should ensure that compensation reaches those who do not receive an acceptable level of service in this area from the agency. The new arrangements mean the Child Support Agency now has a

Financial year Higher education expenditure excluding student maintenance (£ million) Higher education expenditure including student maintenance (£ million)
Cash terms Real terms Cash terms Real terms
1989–90 102 128 155 194
As percentage of UK GDP 0.019 0.029
1990–91 101 117 176 204
As percentage of UK GDP 0.018 0.032
1991–92 97 106 207 226
As percentage of UK GDP 0.017 0.036

compensation scheme which has been designed in the light of experience to meet the special circumstances of its responsibilities.