HC Deb 26 March 1999 vol 328 cc439-40W
Mr. Steinberg

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the average time taken for the CSA to review child maintenance following a request. [78284]

Angela Eagle

The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Mrs. Faith Boardman. She will write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Faith Boardman to Mr. Gerry Steinberg, dated 25 March 1999:

I am replying to your Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the Child Support Agency Reviews.

Under Child Support legislation, there are a number of different reviews that can be requested by parties to an assessment (which will include the non resident parent/person with care and child in Scotland). Any of the interested parties can ask for a review of their assessment by another child support officer if they disagree with the decision of the original child support officer. This is referred to as a second tier review. They may also request a change of circumstance review if a change has occurred that may affect their maintenance assessment.

We do not collect information on average processing times for the clearance of reviews of maintenance assessments. We measure the clearance of reviews against a target set by the Secretary of State. The 1998/99 target requires 80 per cent. of reviews to be cleared within 13 weeks. The age at clearance is measured from the date of the receipt by the Agency. At 28 February 1999 we have exceeded the target by clearing 87 per cent. of reviews within 13 weeks.

There have been significant improvements in the Agency's performance over the last two years despite an increase in workload of over 20 per cent. in that time. We have reviewed the way we handle complaints and we have increased resources for our Client Helplines and the National Enquiry Line, extended our hours of opening to cover 8.00 am to 8.00 pm Monday to Friday and 9.00 am to 5.00 pm on Saturdays and have completed trials to greatly improve and increase clients' opportunities to secure a face to face service. Also, letters of complaint to the Agency have fallen as a percentage of our caseload.

We recognise that, in the past, our standard of service has fallen below what our clients could reasonably expect. We are looking at the ways that we measure our performance to ensure that our focus is on providing a service that meets our clients' needs as well as achieving numerical targets.

I hope this is helpful.

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