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Parliament and the new computer system

The intention here is to tell the story, not to be exhaustive.

The quotes provided are normally directly from the original article, but typically whole sentences and paragraphs are omitted, often without indicating where the omission is, but without altering the order of presentation.

Date & reference Extracts (not necessarily contiguous)
1999

1999-03-03
Commons written answers

Hansard

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of data held on the current CSA computer system has been identified as being of poor quality as a result of the implementation of the data assurance strategy.

Letter from Mrs. Faith Boardman to Mr. David Rendel, dated 2 March 1999:

We recognise that it is essential to have accurate data before it is transferred onto a new computer system. We have therefore endorsed and are implementing a Data Assurance strategy designed to identify poor quality data held on the current system and to recommend action to improve it.

We have identified 24 areas of the Child Support Computer System to investigate the quality of information held. Early indications show that only a fairly small percentage of the data used in the specific areas investigated could be classed as poor quality.

Until the investigation of all the 24 areas have been completed in November 1999 it is not possible to say what percentage of data held on the current computer system is of poor quality.

It has always been our intention to have discussions with AFFINITY on the best ways to migrate cases from the current Child Support Computer System to ensure the integrity of the new system.

1999-03-04
Commons written answers

Hansard

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security

(2) what is the current backlog of cases in the Child Support Agency, and how many of these are (a) more than six months old and (b) over one year old.

Letter from Faith Boardman to Mr. Iain Duncan Smith, dated 3 March 1999:

I cannot provide precisely all the information that you have requested on the current backlog, but have provided as much as possible from the most recent information available.

At 31 January 1999, there was a total of 278,518 maintenance applications outstanding.

We normally refer to our maintenance assessment backlog as cases that are over 52 weeks old and have not yet been assessed.

At any time, the Agency would expect to have a normal head of work of around 210,000 maintenance applications. The speed with which assessments can be cleared is constrained by the complexities of the current legislation which can require up to 104 separate pieces of information to be collected and verified before an assessment can be made, however the Agency is steadily reducing the time taken and is clearing the backlog of applications from the early years.

Our original estimated volume of backlog cases outstanding in April 1997 was 225,000; by 31 January 1999 we had cleared 251,000, and in practice now expect to need to clear 300,000 cases. This is because as we have proceeded in clearing this work we identified more cases in the backlog than originally estimated. In June 1998 we introduced a major improvement of the Child Support Computer System (CSCS) which provided automated management information. To make full use of the automated information all of the existing cases on CSCS had to be checked to ensure their management information status was correct. This exercise involved validating 1.25 million cases, work was completed in December and means that we now have a reliable automated count of all work on hand.

To clear these 300,000 cases by 31 March will require the Agency to clear around 50,000 cases in February and March. Although this is very challenging we cleared over 27,000 in January, and therefore expect to clear the 300,000 cases.

We envisage that the extra resources which will be released as a result of clearing the maintenance assessment backlog will enable more resources to be concentrated on improving customer service and ensuring that parents meet their responsibility so that children receive the maintenance they are entitled to on a regular basis.

1999-04-05
First Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

Hansard (and following page)

Report by the Secretary of State for Social Security under Section 82 of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999

To make the child support system work properly and in a manner that gives the agency's customers a decent service, we need to replace the hopeless IT system that was given to it by the previous Administration with a modern system that is based on up-to-date components. There is also a need to transform the way in which the agency works—it needs to be converted from an organisation that is smothered by paper into a modern, client-focused organisation that uses the methods of communication of today and tomorrow—the telephone and the internet—not simply the methods of yesterday, including paper and clerical systems.

In order to realise that system, investment is required, and in order to have it in place by April 2002, we must start preparing for change as early as possible. Hence the condition in section 82(1)(b) of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999, which is that the Secretary of State should believe that a change that is brought about by any Act to a social security function will not be effectively provided from the date on which the Act comes into force unless preparatory expenditure is available to cope with the change before that legislation receives Royal Assent.

I now turn to the details of the Secretary of State's report. It seeks authorisation for a maximum of £45 million for those reforms of the child support system that are dependent on the passage of the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill. Of that total, £6 million relates to the Child Support Agency's expenditure on reform implementation, and the other £39 million involves the liability that will accrue under agreements with the Affinity consortium, which is the lead supplier of the CSA's new IT system.

Reforming the child support system involves changing the rules by legislation, changing the skills and culture of the CSA and improving the tools that the CSA uses to do its job. For example, I am sure that those Committee members who have constituency cases involving the CSA—let us face it, that is all of us—will be glad to hear that this year the agency plans to introduce bank statement-style statements of accounts for all clients. That great advance, which it was not previously possible to introduce, is dependent on investment in systems improvement, although it is not linked to the legislation that I mentioned earlier, and the report does not deal with it.

The report deals with the agency's spending on: the development and testing of the legislation-dependent parts of the new IT system, including work on the new calculation of liability; data cleansing, which involves tidying up the massive and inaccurate data that are held in the current, inadequate and outdated IT system; staff training; the provision of reform implementation teams in the Department; and communications in the agency and with outside stakeholders in the reform process.

The bulk of the expenditure that is covered by the report refers to a liability accrued, rather than to a cash outlay, in 2000. The inclusion of the liability in the expenditure that is covered by the report is based on legal advice that we have received. The liability in respect of work by the Affinity consortium appears in the report because it was written with the worst-case scenario in mind. We believe that it was prudent to include that liability in this context.

If the report were rejected, there would be delay, but perhaps not for long. If Parliament enacts the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill before the summer recess, there will be some delay in the CSA's work. However, a huge project of transformation is involved, and any delay places in jeopardy the implementation of the reforms by April 2002. The upshot of rejecting the report might be that reform will take place later than would otherwise have been achievable.

Mr. Webb: I look forward to hearing how she reconciles those two statements.

The second point that I want to raise relates to the implementation of the reforms on which we are approving the advance spending of money. Again, there seems to have been a shift between the Secretary of State's report and the Select Committee report, which was published only eight or nine weeks ago. On 19 January this year, the first report of the Social Security Committee said in paragraph 15: We welcome the assurance given . . . that, if the new IT system is not in place in the target period (late 2001).

At that point the Select Committee was under the impression that the new system that we are talking about today would be up and running by late 2001. However, by the time the Secretary of State's report is published eight or nine weeks later, suddenly we are talking about April 2002. In eight weeks, the time scale seems to have slipped by five months, which even by Department of Social Security standards is pretty drastic. We certainly do not want the new regime to come in before the computer systems are ready to support it, but we want people who come to our surgeries to know when it will come in. People say to me now: ``We've heard this new system is coming in. When will my child maintenance be affected by it?'' or ``When will I get to keep £10 on the disregard?'' The Department has already changed its tune by five months in eight weeks.

Will the Minister say definitively why there has already been a six-month slippage, will she confirm that April 2002 is definitely the point when the new arrangements will come in and can we tell our constituents that with confidence, given the Department's fluid notion of what ``soon'' and ``very soon'' mean?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire and his colleagues on the Select Committee have approved the revised version of the report, I would not wish to overturn their recommendation, but they have concerns about how the process was undertaken, as do I. There are also specific concerns about how the situation has changed between the different reports, which does not suggest competent handling of the issue. I hope that the Minister will respond to all those points.

Angela Eagle: I shall answer the questions that I have been asked as far as I can, but I shall also try to give a flavour of what has been going on in the Department in relation to the changed process.

The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar asked first about the new IT system having to be operational. We have said that it is nigh on impossible to introduce the new system on top of the old one. Let me give a flavour of the difficulties that we face with the old IT system and also deal with the Tottenham Court road point, if I may call it that.

The system on which we do Child Support Agency work is in fact two systems. It was developed in the 1970s and was 20 years old when it was procured in the early 1990s. In terms of its IT architecture, it is one of the oldest legacy systems. It is difficult, time-consuming and risky to incorporate changes in these old mainframe computers, because one has to put into the computer's coding the changes that the software on a personal computer would now organise. To do that, one needs highly-skilled people who have been trained in very old computer languages, which are increasingly becoming obsolete. The hon. Gentleman will remember that we had a discussion on that when we were debating the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill.

They system was designed in the 1970s for child support collection in Florida. It was bought off the shelf—not a shelf in Tottenham Court road but a shelf in Florida. It was brought in at the last minute to ensure that the child support system would be up and running when the Government of the time said it would be. There are some lessons here for those who complain about delays. The pressure to introduce something—anything—by the set date often leads to such mistakes being made.

The computer does not recognise national insurance numbers because it was not designed for United Kingdom work, and national insurance numbers do not exist in Florida. Therefore, it cannot identify anyone in our system. No one who is identified by a national insurance number can be identified: there is no read-across from that system to any of our other systems.

The system did not have a debt management function, which means that we now have two systems—the child support computer system and a separate debt management system for the accounts. The system does not produce personalised accounts. Therefore, Mr. Bloggs cannot obtain an account that will tell him whether he is in arrears, how much he has paid or when the payments were passed over to the parent with care; nor can the parent with care obtain an account that says whether his payments are up to date or whether there are arrears. Those facilities simply are not available. That makes it difficult even to do the basic work.

Mr. Pickles: I am embarrassed to stop the Minister, because she is doing such a marvellous job. The next time I cannot boot up my computer, she is the first person I shall call. She is doing such a marvellous job at answering a question that I did not ask her that I wonder whether she can answer the question that I did ask. It relates to paragraph (h) on page iv in the first report, which says:

We welcome the assurance given by the witnesses that, if the new IT system is not in place in the target period (late 2001), the Child Support reforms will be delayed until the system is fully operational.

That is the question that I asked. I was not asking the Minister to shove something on to the old system. I was saying: ``Supposing the things that she's got that she likes very much don't work too well, we won't start until they work.''

Angela Eagle: I was coming on to that. This is the equipment that we have to work with now. If the new system was delayed or did not work, we would have nothing else with which to introduce the new system. The old system is very inflexible and highly risky to change; it does not deliver any management or work flow information; it has no usable, interactive presence on our staff's desk; no telephony services come with it—nothing. It is difficult to see how we could use what we have. I am told that it would be technically possible to use the old computer system to deliver the new system, but it would be in a primitive and inadequate way.

Angela Eagle: I shall answer the hon. Gentleman's question in a minute. We would have to reprogramme the computer now to introduce the new system in that crude way. We are here today because we decided to buy a new, much more up-to-date computer that will give us all the things that large organisations take for granted in their computer systems—a work-flow model, telephony services, accounting systems and all the rest.

To come to the hon. Gentleman's question, if we reached the stage—I am not saying that we shall—where the computer procurement had been delayed or there was some problem with it or an issue of functionality, I would be asked whether the introduction should be delayed. I would have to decide whether to introduce the new system in time on an obsolete piece of equipment or to delay the introduction further. It is 99 per cent. obvious what that decision would be: we would rather get the computer right and functional and check that it could deliver the system than risk an already difficult changeover because of the transition issues that we discussed in Committee. Rather than put at risk the whole change, delay would be an attractive option.

Mr. Pickles: Would a fair summary of that answer be yes?

Angela Eagle: Yes, but many people would not even think that we had those practical problems with the present equipment. I merely hope to give a flavour of the difficulties that our staff face day in and day out trying to run this system and, at the same time, of the consequences of buying cheap, off-the-shelf stuff from Florida because it is easier and quicker.

Angela Eagle: I was trying to give a flavour of the fact that we must learn from the mistakes that were made when the old system was implemented. It is in everybody's interests that the new system works, and the computer that we are in the process of procuring is at the centre of that. It is difficult to see how we can proceed without having the new computer up and running.

The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar said that the Select Committee was concerned about two things—the type of information and incomplete information. The hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) made the same point—rather superciliously, I thought—about the so-called inaccuracy of the information. It is true that the £59 million figure was mentioned to begin with, but when evidence was finally taken in what is a new process—hon. Members must bear that in mind—it had been discovered, after more detailed work had been done in the interim, that the parts that section 82 of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999 refers to are those that are affected by primary changes in legislation and not by on-going administration in existing systems.

Officials had a chance to take a closer look and to divide up the work being done on modernisation between work that was directly relevant to changes in the primary legislation and work relevant to other modernisations that we can do without parliamentary approval, because the money is not extra but has already been voted in the appropriate Appropriation Votes. The information was inaccurate in the sense that that division had not been made. I agree that it looks odd, but by the time the officials appeared before the Select Committee we were able to say that we had done further work and realised that £6 million of the £59 million related to the changes in primary legislation. That is the explanation for the two different figures.

As regards incomplete information, clearly there is an issue of commercial confidentiality before contracts are signed that cannot easily be resolved. At the appropriate time the expenditure and all the value-for-money issues around it will be considered in the usual way by the National Audit Office and by the DSS's internal audit mechanisms. Therefore, financial assurance exists.

The recommendation to the Procedure Committee that was raised by the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar is a matter for the House. However, all members of the House, particularly those who serve on the Public Accounts Committee, should consider how systems and methods of procurement have changed. When we are developing mechanisms on non-greenfield sites in already existing complex organisations, perhaps changing the time scale, Parliament should look at more effective ways of checking Government expenditure than those that we have inherited, sometimes from two centuries ago. Clearly, the Procedure Committee has every right to do that, and I look forward to its conclusions, if it does that.

In his comments on slippage, the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar asked some questions about the Information Technology Services Agency, which I am happy to answer. The ITSA issue relates to a decision that was taken and to matters discussed in the Committee, which he did not deign to attend. He would have been involved in some of the debates if he had come on to the Standing Committee that considered the Bill. We announced in Parliament that we were in negotiations with Affinity to outsource large parts of ITSA to it. Much of the agency's work is in maintaining our old legacy systems, which we are starting to change to a more up-to-date system. The change will take a few years to complete. In the meantime, the existing legacies systems must be maintained and a group of people with the necessary computer skills retained to service them.

The parliamentary question to which the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar referred to relates to what I call the intelligent customer facility. If we outsource the on-going maintenance of a computer system to an expert specialist company because we decide not to maintain it in-house, it is essential for future procurement and value for money that the Department keeps an intelligent customer base—in other words, computer experts who can give appropriate advice on future systems and all the strategic decisions that must be taken ahead of the procurement process. Therefore, the parliamentary question relates to bringing into DSS headquarters that intelligent customer facility, while outsourcing to Affinity the on-going maintenance provision for the existing legacy systems. I hope that that deals with the hon. Gentleman's references to Hansard and the parliamentary questions that I have answered.

The hon. Member for Northavon is not happy with the process and talked about our losing 90 per cent. of the money. We have not lost any of it. I hope that my explanation to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar has reassured or enlightened the hon. Gentleman. We managed to split that money into the money that we are spending on ensuring that primary legislation, for which this process has been created, is properly covered in the period before Royal Assent and the money that we are spending on on-going modernisation, all of which is contributing to helping the Child Support Agency through the transformation and into the new system.

The hon. Member for Northavon said that there was confusion about whether work on child support reform would be done in September. Under current work programmes, we expect the primary legislative changes to be in the computer build in September, but that date could move forwards or backwards. Building a new computer is like painting a room: things must be done in a certain way. If it were suddenly decided that the equivalent of papering the walls or painting the ceiling had to be done, we would want to ensure that we had the facilities and the financial cover from the House to do it. At present, we do not expect that to happen.

The hon. Gentleman is therefore right to say that this debate may not be relevant. If the Bill receives Royal Assent in June, the work will be done some time after June, so the debate will not have been needed. What if we had not asked for the appropriate cover and a glitch had occurred, Royal Assent were put off until October and we found ourselves unable to do work? The whole project could have been held up simply because we had not been willing to have this debate and open ourselves to this scrutiny so that we could get the financial cover that we needed to transform the system in the most appropriate way. That is why we decided, prudently, to ask for Parliament's approval for this expenditure before Royal Assent. I accept that it may not be needed.

Mr. Webb: When does the Minister expect the contract to be signed this year? Is that when liabilities start to accrue? That appears to be the message.

Angela Eagle: The contract is being procured under a private finance initiative. Such contracts work in a way that ensures that both parties undertake work, move towards coming to an agreement and signing a contract and undertake liabilities that may or may not be paid for, depending on what happens with the contract. We expect the contract to be signed in early June. That is the hope and the target, but these things slip.

If I may reassure the hon. Member for Northavon, the first build of the new computer begins within the next 10 days, so work is being done prior to the signing of the contract to ensure that the announced date of April 2002 does not slip. However, the hon. Gentleman has already announced to the press that the computer has failed, even before it exists, so I am interested in his admission in the Committee that it does not yet exist, although it will start to be built soon.

Mr. Pickles: When?

Angela Eagle: Within the next 10 days. The original 2001 date was the best guess at the beginning of the process of the date when it might be possible to introduce the system. As negotiations commence and detailed decisions are made about how long it will take to deliver what is needed, one gets a better view of what is practicable. As soon as it became clear to us that April 2002 was a safer, more sensible date, we announced that in our proceedings on the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill. There is no secret about that. We are trying to be as open as we can about it. I appreciate that the constituents of the hon. Member for Northavon as well as mine and everybody else's want to know when it will happen, but April 2002 is still the target date.

1999-04-21
Select Committee on Social Security - Oral Evidence

MR GEORGE MCCORKELL, MR PETE SHARKEY and MR BRIAN BARNES

Hansard

Chairman

30. A final question from me. Tell me about outsourcing, and whether you think that is successful; some of us are a bit concerned that some of these big players, like EDS, and others, are getting a bit of a monopoly in the government field of big systems operations? But tell us a bit about what your experience is of outsourcing, and whether it has brought the benefits that were anticipated for it?

(Mr McCorkell) I think, in terms of outsourcing, the ITSA experience, our big major experience was what we called the FOCUS project, Future Operations for Customer Service. I remember that well because I happened to be in charge of it, because I was in ITSA at the time. That project transferred responsibility to a set of suppliers, EDS, ICL, and Sema, for the day-to-day operation of the computer systems, not the development of the software, or fixing the software, but the day-to-day operation of the systems and the fixing of things, if a PC breaks it is one of those contracts where it goes and fixes it. That previously had been an in-house function, and we transferred, I think it is, probably in the region of 1,500 staff, but I can check that figure, to that range of suppliers. That has been an extremely successful outsourcing from all points of view. There have been NAO inquiries into it, and they have always concluded, as we have monitored, that it brought significant financial savings to the Department, the cost of those operations dropped significantly after that outsourcing. We continue to monitor that, and because the operations have changed now, since they took over in 1995, and it is difficult to compare because you are not comparing apples with apples any more, we monitor against the market-place, and we believe we are getting very significant value for money from that outsourcing.

Also, I believe, and I was very conscious of this at the time I was in charge of doing it, it has been very successful for the staff involved, the staff who transferred from the Civil Service to these companies. We were very conscious at the time of their concerns and worries, and it was a particular strand of the project paid particular attention to make sure that that process happened successfully and that we helped the people through these worries and these concerns, and we helped the transfer of the staff to take place smoothly. Again, all the evidence is that has been very successful. I think, each of us round this table, every now and again, bump into one of our old colleagues who used to work for us, and we find he has now got a job three stages up the ladder, in EDS, or Sema, and is probably earning more money than we are. But I can give you very direct evidence of the success of that, in that, on my return to ITSA, my office is based in Peel Park, and one of the in-house operations we still have is what we call the Service Help Desk, where we have a whole set of people who are helping doing the overall management of this; that remains an in-house operation, but all around it are people from Sema, ICL and EDS, and mostly they are people we transferred to them, because they are still performing these functions to them. On my second day in the office, I did a walkabout, and I went to see my people in the Help Desk, to introduce myself and say hello, and I also walked about these other areas, and I spoke to many of the people who had been transferred; and I did not get any bad news stories, they were all perfectly happy, they were very content with their jobs and very happy with their future. And people did say to me "Yes, at the time, I was extremely concerned about this, but it went very smoothly, there have been no hiccups, and, frankly, we are very happy where we are."

So I think it has been successful for the Department and I think it has been successful for staff. I assume the suppliers who undertook the contracts are making the profit they intended to make, but, obviously, I have no details of that.

1999-04-21
Oral Evidence - Memorandum submitted by the Information Technology Services Agency

Hansard

Along with most large organisations, the Department of Social Security (DSS) is dependent on secure and integrated Information Systems (IS) and Information Technology (IT) for the effective delivery of its business.

The Department demands high quality IT services because people who use our services are dependent on IT for the timely and accurate calculation and payment of their benefit entitlements, whether by girocheque, order book, Automated Credit Transfer (ACT) or card payment. Similarly, staff depend on IT to carry out their work, whether that involves paying benefits or collecting monies that are due to the Department.

The DSS is one of the largest IT users in Europe and ITSA makes full use of private sector suppliers and their expertise to ensure effective and economical supply and support for the:

— calculation and payment of pensions, benefits and allowances by the Benefits Agency (BA), the War Pensions Agency (WPA) and the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency (NISSA);

The existing computer systems were mainly developed in the 1980s and were built to support the operations that existed at that time. However, the Department's business approach and general trends in technology have moved on, and these systems are now becoming old and in need of replacement. This requires a long term modernisation programme to improve social security delivery and provide a modern, effective and efficient social security system, underpinned by a new generation of IS/IT.

We are moving towards a new structure of Information Systems based on two key components:

— a Shared Systems Infrastructure (SSI) bringing together all the common information held about a claimant into a single and more widely accessible source, for use right across the range of services—and service providers. The end product will be a major improvement on the current situation where information may be collected several times for individual benefits or other transactions by Agencies and is stored separately; and

— Business Process Support Systems (BPSS) providing the links between the SSI and its data (subject to Data Protection Act safeguards) and the people and organisations who will draw on it (that is the claimants themselves, the service deliverers in DSS, other Government Departments, Local Authorities and others). For example, a particular BPSS could support front-line staff in providing help to particular groups of people with different needs, such as pensioners or lone parents.

2.6 These systems will be geared to the needs of the people who use social security, and the staff who operate the systems. They will use proven and tested modern technologies and tools which are flexible enough to be upgraded to cater for future developments to enhance effectiveness and productivity. Thus the staff who actually deliver services, those who manage them, other organisations we work with and claimants themselves will all get better IS/IT support.

2.11 ITSA has a history of working in close partnership with private sector suppliers. (74 per cent of ITSA's expenditure is currently spent externally on products and services). ITSA operates in a mixed economy, using external suppliers where that offers the best means to secure value for money.

2.12 Partnership will enable private sector investment, skills and innovation to be combined with our own expertise and experience of welfare delivery. It will enable modernisation of the welfare state, whilst allowing DSS to retain control. The Access to Corporate Data (ACCORD) procurement programme was created to put in place the supply arrangements that are needed to deliver the aims of the IS/IT Strategy.

3.2 In November 1998 the Department announced that it had selected three private sector consortia with the potential to deliver a wide range of IS/IT services;

— AFFINITY—led by EDS with IBM UK, Cable & Wireless Communications and Pricewaterhouse Coopers;

— ARCWAY—led by British Telecommunications plc with Sema Group UK and Bull Information Systems;

— ACCORD—led by ICL with Andersen Consulting, Experian, Microsoft, Racal Information Systems, Ferret Information Systems, Select Software Tools plc and De la Rue Identity Systems.
3.3 All of these consortia contain major organisations well versed in large scale IS/IT and organisational change.


3.4 The procurement approach adopted by the Department through the ACCORD arrangements has two elements:

— the first is to establish a number of framework or "overarching" IS/IT Service Agreements. These establish commercial relationships between the Department and the selected service providers from which we can readily select IS/IT supply. Having these arrangements in place means we are able to select service providers quickly and enter into contracts for specific elements of IS/IT work with leading industry players. The award of the overarching contracts to all three service providers also ensures we retain choice when awarding contracts, which we see as essential to ensure value for money on an ongoing basis;

— the second is to select one of the consortia as the Department's 'preferred' service provider. This provides the Department with access to private sector innovation and experience and will give one service provider specific responsibility for working with the Department on developing and defining a comprehensive and cohesive view of the IS/IT services the DSS will need in the future. The AFFINITY consortium was selected for this role and they started working with the Department immediately to establish the requirements for overall transformation.

1999-07-01
House of Commons Debate

Hansard

The Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Alistair Darling): With permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to make a statement on our reforms of the Child Support Agency--a key part of our strategy for supporting families and children.

To do this, we need also to reform the way in which the CSA operates and to improve significantly the service that it provides. This is not going to be easy. The CSA will never be popular--it will always be doing a difficult job at a difficult and emotional time. However, by replacing the complex formula with new, simple rates, we are laying the foundations for a far better service than would ever be possible under the current system.

The CSA will get new information technology, and will make more use of the phone to sort out queries quickly. It will be there at times that suit parents, so that they can call in the evenings or at weekends from the privacy of their own homes, and not in the daytime while they are at work.

Of course, we need to make sure that those changes are introduced smoothly and successfully. We want to introduce the new scheme as soon as possible, but it is vital to get it right. The present system collapsed under its own weight because the previous Government tried to introduce reforms too quickly, and with too little thought. It is a massive task. Within a year of the millennium, the Child Support Agency will be dealing with more than 1 million cases--that is more than 2 million parents. Radical change on that scale will take time. The new system needs legislation and new computer systems, as well as a radical change of culture and working practices in the CSA itself.

We plan to introduce the new system for new cases towards the end of 2001, with existing cases coming on to the new system later, once it is up and running. However, we want to introduce some measures earlier, such as making it a criminal offence to lie to the agency, closing the loophole that allows fathers falsely to deny their paternity, and improving the administration of the CSA itself.

1999-07-01
House of Commons Debate

Hansard

Mr. David Rendel (Newbury):

Fourthly, what assurance will he give that the information technology that he will introduce will work any better than that surrounding the fiascos of the new passport system, the new national insurance system and the system in post offices?

Mr. Darling:

The hon. Gentleman asked about IT. I readily agree that the Government's record on IT--I do not wish to make a political point, as we have as many problems as the previous Government had--has led us to believe that one should be very cautious before saying that a new computer system will work from day one. I am determined to ensure that before we start the new system, we know that the IT systems work, because much depends on that. I will ensure that that happens, but we now have funding to replace the IT system in the CSA and elsewhere in the DSS, and we intend to ensure that we get the maximum benefit from it.

1999-07-20
Commons written answers

Hansard

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security

(1) how many Child Support Agency cases were uncleared after (a) 78 weeks and (b) 104 weeks on 31 March;

(2) how many, and what proportion of, applications for maintenance to the Child Support Agency dating from after (a) 31 March 1997, (b) 30 September 1997 and (c) 31 March 1998 were uncleared 52 weeks later.

Letter from Mrs. Faith Boardman to Mr. Frank Field, dated 20 July 1999:

The information requested in your questions is not available. Whilst the Agency maintains systems to monitor and report on performance, the specific figures you have asked for would require a scan of our computer system. This would take several weeks to arrange and deflect resources from other important development work.

1999-11-19
House of Commons Debates

Hansard

Mr. Leigh: Will the right hon. Gentleman give a commitment to the Select Committee? Paragraph 106 of the report says:

"The importance of effective computer systems cannot be exaggerated. We recommend that the new child support scheme should not be implemented until the new computer system is fully operational."

I am sure that he agrees that we do not want any more traditional computer foul-ups. Will he give a commitment to members of the Select Committee that he will abide by that recommendation?

Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman is right on cue, because I was about to deal with the child support system and I am happy to deal with his point straight away. He is right. The computer system currently operating in the Child Support Agency was bought--not quite off the back of a lorry, but not far off that--by the Conservatives when they were in government. I understand that it came from someone in Florida who had a system that was going to be ideal--no questions asked, it would be just the thing. As we all know, it turned out not to work terribly well. To that extent, it fits quite well with some of the rest of the computer equipment that the Conservatives purchased over the years, because most of it was not up to the job when it was introduced and still is not up to the job.

When I made a statement introducing the White Paper, I gave a commitment to the House that we would not introduce the new reformed child support system until we had the information technology and computer systems to back it up and make it work. It would be possible to operate some of the new support system without new IT systems, but if we are to change the culture of the place and the quality of the service, we need a new IT system. I hope that we shall be able to make an announcement about that next year. The hon. Gentleman has raised a good point.

2000

2000-01-11
House of Commons Debates

Hansard

Mr. Rooney:

Owing to the inadequacy of the computers, no one can say with certainty at any given time what the position is in any given case. Those who contact the CSA's regional offices usually find that they are speaking to someone whose brain is befuddled, who is probably living in the dark ages, knowing nothing of what goes on in the real world, and who can answer no Member of Parliament or member of the public with conviction.

The present system generates mountains of paper. The agency may issue as many as seven communications on the same day, running to six or seven pages, each telling a different story and featuring incredible calculations that bear no relation to people's circumstances. The simplicity of the proposed 15, 20, or 25 per cent. formula will restore the agency's credibility, which is the first thing that is needed if parents are to have a genuine desire to co-operate with it. It is no wonder that so few wish to do so now: they rightly feel that the agency lies on the road to ruin and destruction, and that there is nothing in it for them.

2000-02-01
Standing Committee F

Hansard

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar): On a point of order, Mr. O'Brien. You will almost certainly have seen the announcement by the Secretary of State that problems have arisen with the new computer in relation to calculating the CSA's new formula and computers' ability to communicate with each other. The system is unlikely to be working before April 2001. Given that we have received many assurances about computers in the Committee, can you tell us whether the Minister of State thinks that this is likely to affect implementation of the Committee's decisions?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Angela Eagle): To help the Committee, I am happy to explain the details for the hon. Gentleman before we begin. We do not have problems. It is simply that, as we negotiate with Affinity, which is the suppliers, we wish to avoid a repeat of what happened when the Child Support Act 1991 came into effect. The previous Government had a start date for child support reforms and wanted a bespoke computer system to be created by its technology agency. The company attempted to achieve that, but half way through the process it discovered that it would not work. The Conservative Government chose not to put back the start date to cope with the unexpected hitch, but instead bought an off-the-shelf computer from Florida, which cannot even identify national insurance numbers. It cannot do many other things either, but we shall deal with that later. They had bought a pig in a poke, which made it difficult for them to pursue their aim of producing CSA reforms in a reasonable manner.

We were determined not to fall into that trap. When first we said that the end of 2001 would be the date by which the computer would be available, we believed it. We still believe that it will be available by that time, but we have been advised by our suppliers, Affinity, that we need a test period to ensure that the computer holds up and works before we begin loading new numbers into it, and we have agreed. Our announcement was made to make it clear exactly when new cases would be put on to the system—which will be April 2002. However, we still expect a computer to be available for our use for testing and commissioning by the end of 2001.

2000-02-01
Standing Committee F

Hansard

Mr. Pickles:

It is not my intention to delay the Committee for too long on clause 3. Most of our amendments are of a technical nature. We find it a little strange that the clause refers to ``any other benefit''. The Bill mentions an income-based jobseeker's allowance and ``any other benefit'' prescribed. It is that phrase that we find peculiar, especially as we now know that there are problems with the computer. Although we are grateful for the Minister's explanation, it seems that Affinity and the technology company EDS have found the work much more complicated than they anticipated. The phrase ``any other benefit'' is therefore likely to exacerbate the complexity of the programme being put into the computer.

We did not know about the Government's problems with the computer when we tabled the amendment, but we question the necessity for the phrase ``any other benefit''. If the Government wanted to introduce another income-related benefit, surely the more sensible thing would be to include it in a Bill for that purpose, and amend the current Bill through that new Bill. It may be thought that I am nit-picking, but a seasoned observer of parliamentary procedures would not think so. If Parliament is to remain in control of legislation, it should be able to determine what income-related benefit should be included in an Act and not allow the Secretary of State carte blanche to introduce a new benefit through the statutory instrument procedure.

I fail to see the advantage of the proposed new section 6(1). The Minister may have good reasons. My amendment will give him an opportunity to explain them. Now that we know about the computer problem, not only do we need a technical response explaining why the phrase should be included, we want further particulars because I am concerned that the information technology software and probably the hardware supplier, EDS, is saying something different from what the Minister said. I am sure that the Minister will wish to qualify that. It is not a question of bedding in or testing the new system; it is a more complicated problem than anticipated. One complication would be putting any other benefit into the computer system. We are looking for a response on two levels. We want to hear why this all-encompassing power is necessary and why suppliers say something quite different from the Minister.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Mr. Jeff Rooker): We have had some good-natured debates. But if the hon. Gentleman for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) continues to repeat the mantra ``problems with the computer'' my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will become extremely irritated because it is not true. We do not know where his quote comes from. Hansard has the answer from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who announced the start-up date of new cases by April 2002. To the best of my knowledge—I am not an expert—no precise date has been given, but it has been assumed that it will be around the end of 2001. However, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said, we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past. The fact is that we do not have a computer at present. That is the whole point. We have now done sufficient work with our suppliers to give a date by which we will be confident that we can put the new cases on the system.

Mr. Pickles: I would be grief stricken if I had given the hon. Lady a moment's pain. I am quoting from a newspaper. It is from The Daily Telegraph, so it must be true, as that is our nation's periodical of record. I am not quoting from the hon. Lady or from the Secretary of State but from the suppliers, Affinity, which is led by the information technology company EDS. The company said that the work has been ``more complicated than anticipated''. I shall go on because I may be giving the hon. Gentleman some news. The article says:

``This is because the computer will have to be able to `talk to' other machines at the Benefits Agency and the Inland Revenue to cross-check data.''

That is serious. I hope that now the Minister of State has cognizance of all the facts, he will not think that I have raised this matter just to annoy the Under-Secretary. I have done so to get to the truth. The hon. Gentleman should address this problem. Has he been fully briefed by his suppliers?

Mr. Rooker: The idea that it is an innovation for a new computer system to talk to other systems is worrying. That is one of our problems. In the past, that was never considered. The possibility of data matching and data sharing as a means of cutting down on fraud is very important. However, the computers need to be able to talk to each other. It is nonsense to suggest that suppliers went into the game thinking that we did not want them to talk to each other. The hon. Member kept referring to a problem. There is no problem because we have no computer at present. We have given a date, which has been recorded in Hansard. Heads are on the block from the top down.

2000-03-06
House of Commons Written Answers

Hansard

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what will be the process for checking the accuracy of arrears statements at the time when existing child support cases are transferred to the new system for child support.

Letter from Faith Boardman to Mr. Kidney, dated 3 March 2000:

The process of migrating data from the existing Child Support Computer System to the new system will be complex and work is being undertaken to asses show this is to be achieved. No decisions have yet been made on a preferred approach. However, the Agency is committed to performing case checks on all live cases bringing assessments up to date where appropriate prior to migration of cases to the new system.

From 30 May 2000, changes are being made to the existing Child Support Computer System to enable non-resident parents, and parents with care, to receive payment statements on a regular basis.

The statement will explain how any arrears balance has been calculated. Procedures are in place to enable cases to be corrected where inaccuracies are detected.

2000-03-13
Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Hansard

Mr Murphy

92. My experience is that a large amount of the cause of delay in individuals dealing with the government agency is the fact that someone else picks up the work and then someone picks up it on Wednesday and misinterprets what had been interpreted. Would that be cut out because of the use of Information Technology, or are the problems staying the same or getting worse?

(Mr Czerniawski) The way the Child Support Agency should develop is to develop the use of technology. We use computers to help humans be more human. At the moment the amount of information staff have immediately available to them is very limited and they do have to go through the same stuff over and over again. It is immensely irritating for both sides. The new systems will have a complete picture of the person's circumstances and record transactions. If you ring on Tuesday and say something and then ring again on Wednesday, the person who picks up the phone will see what has happened much more clearly.

Mr Murphy
93. Can I stop you? CSA reforms are going to make that one of the necessary aspects of customer relations anyway, so there is guidance coming through from the new CSA, so the CSA might not be a good example, but is it an unusual example in terms of named employees or named civil servants being tasked to see a named constituent from inception to completion?

(Mr Czerniawski) The Child Support Agency does not embody that.

Mr Murphy
94. Is it setting out to do so?

(Mr Czerniawski) The reforms are being designed to achieve that, but it will be a big change and the CSA will not be able to do so from tomorrow. How far other parts of the Government are less able to do it at the moment and intending to do more of it, I could not answer.

(Mr Bender) I cannot answer directly the proposals that the CSA are introducing, but something should be introduced across Government, where, as the citizen is in contact, whoever responds on the other end should know the story so far. We do not have a cross government plan, it is the identical one throughout. It will be for agency by agency to determine.

2000-04-20
Puclic Accounts - Child Support Agency: Client Funds Account 1998-99

PREPARATIONS FOR THE NEW CHILD SUPPORT SYSTEM

Hansard

37. In July 1999, the Government issued the White Paper 'A new contract for welfare: Children's rights and parents' responsibilities', setting out proposals for the introduction of simplified legislation governing the assessment of child maintenance.[24] Linked to this, the Agency planned to implement a new information technology system.

38. We asked the Agency about the proposed arrangements, and in particular how they planned to deal with existing cases, including the legacy of error. They told us that the proposals in the White Paper were certainly radically simpler in that they would have to deal with seven to 11 pieces of information compared with 104. They assured us that they were trying to approach implementation of the new arrangements in a professional and prudent way. In terms of handling the transition, they first had to get the remaining work on hand down to acceptable levels; the more up-to-date their cases were, the easier transition would be. To this end, they were setting targets and receiving extra resources over the next 18 months. Secondly, they were planning a major data cleansing operation, which should also improve the information that needed to be put across. Thirdly, they planned to work closely with the private sector consortium that would be supplying the new information technology systems to make sure that key issues like the business requirements, proper risk management, and proper assurance mechanisms were put in place. And, the new system would provide both parents with care and non-resident parents with regular statements of how much had been paid and how much was outstanding, so that the Agency could agree those sums and enter into the new regime on a more agreed basis.

39. We asked about the timetable for implementation of the new arrangements and implementation of the new information technology systems. The Agency told us that the Government was determined, as they were, that implementation should be done properly. They had learned the lessons from the rushed implementation of the current system, and although at the time of our hearing Ministers had not decided precisely on the implementation date, they recognised it would not be possible before the end of 2001.

40. Subsequently, the Secretary of State announced that the new scheme would come into effect from April 2002. This date was set after listening both to the Agency and its information technology provider, and followed the Government's commitment to ensure that the new scheme was not brought in until everything was ready.

Conclusions

44. The changes proposed in the White Paper 'A new contract for welfare: Children's rights and parents' responsibilities', combined with a new information technology system, offer a solution to many of the problems that have beset the child support arrangements and the Agency since 1993. And while some will be disappointed that these new arrangements will not be implemented until April 2002, it is essential that they are properly planned and tested.

45. Although the Agency have a number of steps in hand to clear backlogs and cleanse existing data, we are concerned that the significant legacy of error might not be tackled before 2002, and might therefore pollute the new system. We look to the Department of Social Security and Agency to ensure sufficient resources are deployed to remedy past errors before existing cases are transferred to the new arrangements.

2000-11-09
Treasury - Minutes of Evidence

Hansard

Mr Beard

451. Do you think that it is feasible to have public expenditure allocated over a three year period rather than the one year that used to be the case?

(Sir Michael Partridge)

Yes. I am a great believer in this. I think the one year was quite hopeless. It was particularly hopeless on the administrative budgets. You cannot plan big computer schemes that last three to four years, or a sensible programme for Parliament, on one year's expenditure when you do not know where you are going. Higher education, which I am involved in now, is suffering from this at the moment, it only has a one year settlement, you cannot plan anything. I think three years is very important. What I think is equally important is you have to review that as you go along each year, obviously, but you should not just claw back all the gains. I had a lot of arguments when we first brought in the three years because at the end of the first year we in DSS had made some very substantial administrative savings and the Chief Secretary showed every sign of saying "we will take them all and draw a new base line and start again" and I said "that is not really going to work if you do that because next year we will not have any savings if that is the basis. I shall make sure we do not because we are just on a loser". This is no way to run a business. What you have got to do if you have three years is to review, I am not saying you should not look at it again. In the same way as with targets for my agency heads, if they achieved them easily I said "we are going to ratchet them up next year". You have a review but you do not just change the rules of the game as you go along. I think three years is essential. Most businesses have three years. I prefer to have a five year look as well to see where you are going, if not a ten year strategic one. We have a ten year one in our university, and a five year one. I think that is essential. In the businesses I am in we certainly have five and three year looks ahead as to where we are going because it takes that time to do big projects.

2001

2001-03-01
Select Committee on Liaison First Report

The 1999 Child Support White Paper (HC 798)

Hansard

Recommendation Government Response
The importance of effective computer systems cannot be exaggerated. We recommend that the new child support scheme should not be implemented until the new computer system is fully operational . The Government has no intention of introducing the reforms until adequate and reliable computer support is in place and sufficient staff are properly trained in its use.

We recommend that particular emphasis should be given in staff training to the need for concise and accurate records of all contacts between customers and the agency, both as good administrative practice and to assist in the swift resolution of complaints and disputes.

One important function of any new computer system will be to retain and retrieve accurate records of all contacts between staff and customers.
2001-07-18

House of Commons Written Answers

Hansard

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the progress made in (a) the purchase and (b) the implementation of the information technology system needed to support the new Child Support Agency maintenance calculation formula.

Letter from Mr. Mike Isaac to Mr. Steve Webb, dated 18 July 2001:

Mr. Smith is unavailable and therefore I am writing to you on his behalf.

The contract for the design, development and subsequent operation of the new computer system to support Child Support Reforms was signed on the 8th August 2000.

The progress is still on course for the new Information Technology system to be ready in April 2002.

2002

2002-01-09
House of Commons Written Answers

Hansard

Mark Tami: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to reform the workings of the Child Support Agency.

Malcolm Wicks: From April 2002 we will introduce a number of changes to the child support system. The changes are designed to provide a simple, clear and responsive service which will be easy to operate and easy to understand.

The new arrangements will be introduced for new clients from April 2002. Current clients will transfer to the new scheme, from a later date, when we are sure that the new arrangements are working well.

2002-02-04
House of Commons Written Answers

Hansard

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the timetable for implementation of the new Child Support Agency maintenance laws; and if he will make a statement.

Malcolm Wicks: Changes to the child support scheme will take effect for new cases from April 2002. Existing cases will be transferred when the new scheme is working well, we expect this to be about a year later.

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what additional resources have been allocated to the Independent Case Examiner in anticipation of the child support reforms.

Malcolm Wicks: Plans are being developed to deal with any anticipated potential increase in the work load of the Independent Case Examiner arising from the introduction of the new child support scheme. Appropriate levels of resource will be determined as part of the planning process.

2002-03-20
House of Commons Hansard Debates

The Announcement of the delay to the reformed scheme, plus subsequent discussion.

Hansard

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Alistair Darling): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a short statement on the implementation of the child support reforms.

We consulted widely in 1998 and I announced our proposals in July 1999. I undertook to keep the House informed on progress towards the implementation of these important reforms. I have made it clear on many occasions that we would not implement the reforms until I was confident that the new system would work effectively.

On 1 July 1999, I reminded the House that the present system had collapsed under its own weight in 1993 because the reforms were introduced too quickly and with too little thought. That approach has been endorsed by Members on both sides of the House and by the then departmental Select Committee. Its report of November 1999 recommended

"that the new child support scheme should not be implemented until the new computer system is fully operational".

I said then—and it remains the position—that we would not repeat the mistakes made in 1993 when the Child Support Agency was introduced. The timetable then was rushed: the organisation was not ready and some key aspects of the information technology system were not finally delivered until two months after the start date. So the IT, critical to the system, was simply not there. We know the consequences—the system descended into chaos within weeks.

Let me tell the House what progress has been made since 1999 to reform the existing system. First, we have put in place the necessary legislation. The primary legislation received Royal Assent in July 2000 and the regulations are in place, with some minor provisions currently before the House.

Secondly, the Child Support Agency has been substantially reorganised to give a far better customer focus. As hon. Members will know, this has already made a difference. Levels of compliance have increased and complaints have fallen considerably.

The third issue, which is fundamental to the delivery of these reforms, is getting the IT right. We face a major task in building a new IT system that can handle upwards of 13 million payments each year. It also needs to link up with other IT systems in the Department, which are based on 1980s technology.

The new child support computer system being built by EDS is near completion. Testing has been under way for some weeks, in advance of the planned start date at the end of April. Those tests are continuing, but they are not yet complete.

I want to see the new system in place as soon as possible. We know that any new IT system will inevitably have teething problems on introduction, but we will proceed only when I am satisfied that it is working to the standards that we expect.

In my view, until the testing process is complete, I will not have the assurance that I need to authorise the start of the new system. I have therefore decided for that reason to defer the planned start date. The new system will be implemented only when the supporting IT is operating effectively.

I have a clear responsibility to Members of this House and the staff who have to operate the new system. Above all, I have a clear duty to parents and children to make sure that the system works effectively.

The delay is frustrating and regrettable. There was a choice: I could have taken a chance, but that would have meant taking a chance on support for children, and for parents. In my judgment, it is better to take the time needed to get it right, rather than repeat the mistakes of 1993.

The new system will continue to be thoroughly tested. I will keep the House updated on progress. I undertake to give the House sufficient notice of the date the new system will start and to confirm how we intend to bring on new and existing cases.

The House will want to know the cost implications of the delay. Inevitably, there are some, but the contract with EDS specified that the Department will not pay for the computer system until it meets the standard required, and that remains the position.

We know about the problems of the past. They arose in part because the rules were too complicated, but also because the decision was taken in the early days to press ahead when there was real doubt about whether all the necessary systems were in place. I will not let that happen again.

This was a difficult decision. I know that many Members—and parents—are anxious to see the changes introduced as soon as possible, but I judged that the risk of proceeding before testing was complete was unacceptable. I therefore took the view that it was right to tell the House the current position as soon as possible, and I will continue to report to the House on progress towards implementation of these much needed reforms.

2002-04-10
House of Commons Written Answers

Hansard

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the saving from the PFI/PPP deal for IS and IT services to underpin child support reforms.

Letter from Doug Smith to John Bercow Esq., dated 9 April 2002:

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in replying to your Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency promised a substantive reply by me. I apologise for the delay in writing to you.

You asked for a statement on the saving from the PFI/PPP deal for IS and IT services to underpin child support reforms.

Child Support Reform delivers new legislation, IS/IT services, procedures and working practices which together provide financial savings accruing over the life of the IS/IT contract. By 2005/2006 the changes will result in a reduction of 17% in the unit cost (which includes PFI costs) of handling child support applications.

2002-04-19
House of Commons Written Answers

Hansard

Office of Government Commerce Gateway Review Process

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the new CSA computer system was subject to OGC Gateway reviews.

Letter from Doug Smith to Mr. Todd, dated 18 April 2002:

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in replying to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency promised a substantive reply by me.
You ask whether the new CSA computer system was subject to OGC Gateway reviews.
The development of the CSA computer system is part of a broader programme to implement the Child Support Reform programme. Two OGC Gateway reviews of that programme have taken place. The first was from the 23 to 27 April 2001 and the second was from the 22 to 25 January 2002.

2002-04-19
House of Commons Written Answers

Hansard

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the (a) planned cost was and (b) current estimated cost is of the Child Support. Reforms New Rules Implementation IT project.

Letter from Doug Smith to Mr. Webb, dated 18 April 2002:

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in replying to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency promised a substantive reply by me.
You ask what the (a) planned cost was and (b) current estimated cost is of the Child Support Reforms New Rules Implementation IT project and
The planned total cost of the project to implement Child Support Reform over the 10 year period of the business case was £651 million.
I am sorry that I cannot provide the planned and current estimated cost of the IT component as it is commercially confidential. As this is a PFI contract and subject to performance criteria the amount of payment will be affected by the level of performance achieved.

2002-04-19
House of Commons Written Answers

Hansard

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to seek compensation from the Affinity Consortium for the delay to the Child Support Reforms New Rules Implementation IT project. [46316]

Letter from Doug Smith to Mr. Weir, dated 18 April 2002:

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in replying to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency promised a substantive reply by me.
You ask what plans the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has to seek compensation from the Affinity Consortium for the delay to the Child Support Reforms New Rules Implementation IT project.
We will take stock of the position when testing is complete and we are able to recommend to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions a revised commencement date for the next phase of Child Support Reforms.

2002-07-01
Minutes of Evidence for Wednesday 22 May 2002
Mr Doug Smith and Vince Gaskell; Mr Mark Neale
Child Support Agency

Examination of Witnesses:

MR DOUG SMITH, Chief Executive, MR VINCE GASKELL, Child Support Reform/Change Director, the Child Support Agency, MR MARK NEALE, CHILDREN AND HOUSING STRATEGY DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONS, EXAMINED.

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