Blog summary & archive - 2003

Site history for 2001 & 2002 ("pre-blog")
Blog summary & archive for 2003
Blog summary & archive for 2004

Summary 29 - for December 2003

Weblog archive for December 2003

The Parliamentary Committee for Work and Pensions announced that it would be examining the way the Department for Work and Pensions, which includes the CSA, manages IT projects.

It was clear by now that the earlier expectations for transferring cases to the news scheme had been abandoned, and no one had a realistic estimate. There was talk of ensuring that this would be completed before the next general election, perhaps by 2005 or 2006. Also, different ways of phasing in the transfer of cases were being examined, instead of the legislated "big bang" approach. This would presumably need extra legislation, perhaps in the form of a new Statutory Instrument.

Summary 28 - for November 2003

Weblog archive for November 2003

The CSA's new computer system was in the news, yet again. There were suggestions that CSA staff had been told not to reveal that computer troubles were the cause of a client's problems. Other stories suggested that staff were having to use pocket calculators to do things that the computer should be doing.

The Northern Ireland CSA, a separate organisation, but working largely to the same legislation, was criticised by the Northern Ireland Ombudsman, for maladministration.

One news items concerned an engaged couple who were forced apart by an error by the CSA. The CSA repeatedly wrote to the wrong man about a child support matter. The engagement didn't survive the suspicion and stress.

The government eventually apologised to parents for the computer system problems. There was now no doubt of the serious nature of the problems. Written complaints to the CSA had increased above their level before the new scheme started.

Summary 27 - for October 2003

Weblog archive for October 2003

The only item reported during October was the news that a court made a sensible decision in the case of 2 women who wanted to use fertilised embryos in spite of the wishes of the men who provided the sperm. The court refused the women's request to retrospectively contravene the law. The law on this matter is absolutely clear. The permission of the men has to be obtained before implantation.

Summary 26 - for September 2003

Weblog archive for September 2003

Some significant events during September were:

The CSA web site for the new scheme was revised to make it more accessible for people with disabilities. For example, it is now easier for blind or near-blind people to access it, perhaps using speech-readers instead of normal browsers. (Other parts of the CSA web site will be improved for disabled people later).

More people gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee. This includes the Cabinet Minister Andrew Smith, and Rod Clark, Director of Strategy, Planning and Performance of the DWP. The CSA's computer system was still not working properly. Most cases were still on the old system. 50 per cent of CSA cases were non-fully compliant or partially compliant. Only about 3% of applicants since 3rd March had received any payment.

It was announced that North Staffs branch of the advice group CANCSA was to close at the start of October.

Summary 25 - for August 2003

Weblog archive for August 2003

Child Support Analysis birthday cake

This web site was 2 years old on the 1st August! (Clipart by Bobbie Peachey).

Many news articles discussed the government's intentions to reduce/avoid the use of PFI (Private Finance Initiative) for IT projects. Obviously, most of the articles cited the problems with the CSA's new computer system, for which EDS is responsible. While EDS has to accept some of the blame, probably so does the government. It is likely that they couldn't resist changing the details of the project while it was being developed, contributing to its delays.

The first child has been born to people using the "Man Not Included" unofficial anonymous sperm donation service. It will probably never know its father, however much it wants to later in life. It is becoming globally recognised that children should be able to know who their biological parents are, but this service ignores that. It doesn't appear even to think about the rights of the children.

Summary 24 - for July 2003

Weblog archive for July 2003

This was a month in which a number of organisations published reports about the CSA. In summary, the CSA continued to improve slowly from its initial appalling state, but still falls a long way short of acceptable standards. Its errors can screw up the lives of both parents and children, and there are still too many of these whose lives are being screwed up.

Number 10 Downing Street can't resist "spin", even in this case! (Was Alastair Campbell involved?) When the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) published her critical report, here are the headlines of the press releases:

From Jodi Berg, head of ICE: "CSA watchdog reports concerns about Agency's complaints handling".
From Patricia Hollis, minister for child support, & Doug Smith, CEO of the CSA: "Child Support Agency praised for improved service".
From the web site for 10 Downing Street: "Child Support Agency praised"

It is hard to believe they are talking about the same report. (The report came from Jodi Berg & ICE, so that suggests which one to believe!)

The CSA's new computer system, and its supplier EDS, came in for a lot of criticism in reports and articles this month.

Summary 23 - for June 2003

Weblog archive for June 2003

A misleading news article about proposed legislation on paternity testing in the Telegraph stated that the government intends to make it illegal for putative fathers to take samples of children's DNA in order to commission an unofficial paternity test. The articles identify the Human Genetics Commission's recent report "Genes Direct - Ensuring the effective oversight of genetic testing services supplied directly to the public". They quote Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, the chair of the HGC. In fact, there HGC has not consulted recently on such paternity testing. It has not made a specific recommendation on the matter.

Some adverse trends in the latest CSA statistics were published. Some suspended cases were closed during February, probably to tidy things up ready for the new scheme. Compliance is down. Average assessments were down. The proportion of male PWCS was down. It wasn't clear why.

The CSA published its procedures used for calculating child support under the new scheme on its website. Then it removed them within a week while pretending it had never published them!

Summary 22 - for May 2003

Weblog archive for May 2003

The "old & new" spreadsheet that estimates assessments under the old-rules, while simultaneously giving a calculation under the new-rules, plus phasing-in estimates, has been updated with the new benefits rates.

This is the "old & new" Excel spreadsheet

A judge declared that the agency could be sued for damages under human rights laws if it delayed or unreasonably failed to take enforcement action against an absent parent who was refusing to pay child maintenance.

Telegraph, Joshua Rozenberg, "Mother wins the right to sue CSA"

Summary 21 - for April 2003

Weblog archive for April 2003

There has been very little news this month. There are hints that the handling of new cases is slow, with some computer problems. But that was to be expected early on.

There is an unconfirmed report that the ability of an NRP to apply for a CSA case wasn't included in the requirements for the new computer system. This would account for the trouble that NRPs are having trying to close the "premature conversion" loophole by applying themselves within the 13-week period.

If so, the CSA started operations on 3rd March with a computer system that couldn't implement the law. It may significantly change the the future financial state of many people, who have been denied their rights under the law.

Summary 20 - for March 2003

Weblog archive for March 2003

The first month has been dominated by the war in Iraq, rather than the new rules! (Was this deliberate? No - they didn't start the war to mask any CSA problems! But did they schedule the start of the new scheme to hide it behind the war?)

The only really significant aspect of the first month is the continuing existence of the "premature conversion" loophole, and the government's continuing denial, despite solid evidence, that the loophole is significant. There are many items in the weblog, in the weblog for February and March, describing the "premature conversion" loophole and the government's reaction to it.

Premature conversion to the new CSA scheme - A loophole that may thwart government policy

Summary 19 - for February 2003

Weblog archive for February 2003

Much of the month has concentrated on the "premature conversion" loophole. The government claims that the law is precisely calculated to close the loophole, while analysis on this web site, and reports of parents starting to exploit the loophole, reveals otherwise.

Premature conversion to the new CSA scheme - A loophole that may thwart government policy

The magnitude of the CSA's task over the next year is becoming clear. Yet another report reveals massive administrative incompetence, and shows that it is at least partly caused by having a large proportion of relatively low-paid, young, inexperienced staff. (The CSA has a high staff-turnover, and has also had to build up its head-count significantly to support the introduction of the new scheme).

Apart from the expectation that there will be over 300 thousand new cases to be started under the new rules, 20% of cases may be linked cases. Depending on the interpretation of this, there may therefore also be 60 thousand existing cases to be converted to the new rules because of "linkage" with those new cases. So the CSA may have to build up a caseload of over 1/3rd million under the new scheme over the year, a much higher number than most people had expected. (This will leave over 2/3rds million under the old rules, to be prepared ready for conversion probably in 2004).

Public Administration Select Committee, Third Report of Session 2001-02, "Ombudsman Issues"
Baroness Hollis' statement in Parliament about 20% linkage

Summary 18 - for January 2003

Weblog archive for January 2003

27th January 2003: "The Secretary of State, Andrew Smith, announced to the House of Commons today that the changes to child support will come into effect from 3 March 2003. The new rules will only apply to new clients and some existing clients who are involved in a new application". An overview of what this means is provided at:

Implications of the announcement of commencement
Questions still to be answered

News articles about the CSA - latest additions

The FAQ to the newsgroup has been updated to reflect this announcement

From the start of 2003 onwards, the Archive & history is in terms of summaries rather than editions. This reflects the fact that the evolution of this web site now continues throughout the month, and is not concentrated at the end each month. Each summary links to the archived weblog for that month.

Site history for 2001 & 2002 ("pre-blog")
Blog summary & archive for 2003
Blog summary & archive for 2004

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Page last updated: 29 November, 2005 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003