Some adverse trends in the latest CSA statistics
The DWP has recently published the CSA statistics for the quarter to February 2003. Previously, they were published on the web as a PDF file. This time they have been published as an Excel spreadsheet. Some of the summary information previously available now has to be calculated explicitly, but it is now easier to calculate extra results, especially extra comparisons with the November 2002 statistics. Here are some results:
The caseload has dropped by nearly 1 in 12, and is below 1 million for the first time for years. This is partly due to the closure of many suspended cases. Suspended cases are commonly the result of failure to trace the NRP. (Was this a tidying up exercise to prepare for the start of the new scheme on 3rd March? Suspended cases would have been hard to handle as linked cases).
The proportion of benefits cases (PWCs on key benefits) has increased from nearly 37% to nearly 38%. (It isn't clear whether this is somehow linked to the above closures. In fact, the number of benefits cases dropped, but not in proportion).
There has been a small fall in the percentage of NRPs who are employed. (The percentage has been falling slightly each quarter for a year). This could also be phrased as for PWCs: the proportion of NRPs on benefits, like the proportion of PWCs on benefits, has increased. A large proportion of CSA cases comprise relatively poor people - often, the CSA simply moves bits of poverty around, and often the Treasury makes things even worse for a separated poor couple.
In about 3/4s of benefits cases, the assessment is less than £10. If this carries over to the new scheme, then because of the disregard, only 1/4 of benefits cases will yield any money for the Treasury. The rest will be compulsory cases, run at Treasury expense, with no Treasury saving. There is a strong correlation between low assessment & PWC on benefits. There are various possible reasons, including "they were poor before separation, and remain poor", or "low assessments provide little incentive for PWCs to get to work", etc. This indicates that the stereotypical "rich NRP, poor PWC" cases are not relatively common, and Treasury saving will never be a high proportion of maintenance.
Compliance tends to be somewhat lower for benefits cases compared with private cases. Whether judged by payment-percentages or case-percentages, full compliance has dropped significantly, partial compliance has increased, and nil compliance has remained about the same or increased. (Did the CSA become less effective for old cases in the run up to the start of the new scheme?)
The average assessments, both per case & per child, has fallen in number of £s to the levels of about 2 years ago in the case of FMAs, and more than that over all assessments. The effect in real terms is even more significant. The average assessment per child is now about the same as Child Benefit, which is about 1/5th of the cost of children.
The percentage of male PWCs has dropped from about 6% to about 5.7%. (It isn't clear whether this is somehow linked to the above closures. In fact, the number of both dropped, but not in proportion). This is much lower than in other countries such as the USA.
Child Support Agency Statistics