Child Support Agency: Bolton

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 6th March 2008.

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Photo of Chris McCafferty Chris McCafferty Labour, Calder Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effectiveness and efficiency of the Vertex-contracted Child Support Agency (CSA) office in Bolton in (a) communicating with (i) hon. and right hon. Members, (ii) Ministers and (iii) other CSA offices and (b) operating efficiency.

Photo of James Plaskitt James Plaskitt Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

holding answer 6 February 2008

The administration of the Child Support Agency is the matter for the chief executive. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 6 March 2008:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Vertex-contracted Child Support Agency (CSA) office in Bolton in (a) communication with (i) hon. and right hon. Members (ii) Ministers and (iii) other CSA offices and (b) operating efficiently.

Vertex Data Science Ltd. manages the CSA Bolton site, a unit we have established to deal with those cases which for technical reasons can not be progressed on the computer system and therefore need to be administered clerically. By moving all the clerical work undertaken by the Agency to this one site from September 2006, the Agency was able to release people to focus on other improvement work outlined in the Operational Improvement Plan, including reducing the number of uncleared applications and strengthening enforcement.

While the arrangement has been generally beneficial, we have experienced some operational issues including expressions of concern from some clients, MPs and the Independent Case Examiner about how the Agency has managed its service to clients and delays in resolving complaints. The Agency has now taken steps to ensure that our service to clients improves in the future. In October 2007 the Agency renegotiated the contract to allow Vertex to focus on keeping maintenance flowing to children, and increased the resource dedicated to progressing clerical cases by retaining responsibility for new clerical cases until first payment stage.

In addition, all complaints with MP or Independent Case Examiner involvement as well as those cases that require a review are now also being dealt with by specialist caseworkers within the Agency. Clerical cases represent less than three per cent of all assessed cases. The administration of these cases will continue to present a challenge, however the Agency is continually working with its contractors to improve the service to these clients.

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