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Child Support Agency

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 9th March 2015.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that the 2012 child maintenance scheme is now open to all applicants and is delivering a more efficient statutory service, including the option of direct payments, for those who cannot make a family-based arrangement. From January 2015, closure of existing CSA cases began.

Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Conservative, Watford

I thank the Minister and want to ask him a further question. For most MPs starting in 2010, this issue provided a lot of constituency casework for us, and the agency in question was often felt not to be fit for purpose, despite the good intentions in setting it up. What progress have the Government made in dealing with the fraud and error that has been so well publicised as existing in the system?

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

We recognise that further incremental reform would not deal with the long and deep-seated problems with the Child Support Agency. That is why we are closing all the cases on the existing system and moving towards a much more streamlined system. To provide one example of the improvements, we now get data direct from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs rather than having to wait for non-resident parents to provide payslips, so we have prompt and accurate information to avoid arrears building up.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex

May I thank my right hon. Friend and the Government for the substantial reforms that they have made to the Child Support Agency, whose service as it was a few years ago is unrecognisable to us now?

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he has said. We want to encourage people to sort things out for themselves whenever that is possible, but when they do use the new system, we offer a much better service than we did. For example, we now have what is known in the jargon as a web-based portal. People can log on and see how their accounts stand, and the system is so good that some have likened it to online banking.