Child Support Agency

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23 January 1996.

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Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston 12:00, 23 January 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to improve the accuracy of assessments by the Child Support Agency. [8798]

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

The Child Support Agency has already introduced a range of measures to improve accuracy.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

Earlier, the Minister spoke about accuracy of between 70 and 80 per cent. That is a tremendous contrast with the last report of the chief adjudication officer, in which he said that only 29 per cent. of assessments were entirely correct.

Is the Minister saying that there has been an incredible improvement, or is the impression, held by hon. Members on both sides of the House, that the Minister is speaking about entirely different sets of figures, correct? I believe that that is what he is doing.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

No. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the agency has significantly improved its accuracy. The report to which he refers says that the key ingredients to ensure further substantial improvements in accuracy are already in place. I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's recognition that accuracy, which is at the top of the agency's agenda, is improving.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

While I commend my hon. Friend on the improvements that have been achieved in respect of the CSA, and on the contribution to them that has been made by Miss Ann Chant, I remain worried about the number of inaccurate assessments. Is it not about time that an independent review or appeal body were established, to which aggrieved mothers or fathers might appeal?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

I thank my hon. Friend for his opening remarks. We continually keep under review whether there are ways in which we might improve the performance and procedures of the Child Support Agency, and we are bearing in mind the argument that he has just made.