26th January 2005
"The nuclear option"?
This blog has often reported the sayings of MPs and others who have contemplated "the nuclear option" - the elimination of the CSA. Now the report of the Work and Pensions Select Committee has been published, and of course the nuclear option is being aired again.
I have said "The only thing keeping the CSA going is that the government hasn't got something to replace it with". That is probably still true. Sooner or later, the government will realise that that not having a replacement is irrelevant if the CSA doesn't work anyway.
“ It is very little to do with the computer system, although I am sure this has contributed. It's to do with the rules which are manifestly unfair, and is the reason people ignore them. ”
A father who says he has no intention of giving the "unfair" agency a penny
“ I welcome this report, which reinforces the view that the CSA is beyond repair. The committee has a Labour majority and the Government should take heed of what its own MPs are saying. Families and children have suffered for too long, as successive governments have failed to get a grip on the CSA. It has been patched so many times that it is beyond repair and should now be scrapped. The Inland Revenue already holds information about family incomes and children so could easily take over the assessment of child maintenance. The Inland Revenue would also be far more effective than the CSA at collecting maintenance. ”
Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary
House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee; " The Performance of the Child Support Agency"; Second Report of Session 2004–05, Volume I:
We believe the Child Support Agency is a failing organisation which is currently in crisis. Rapid and radical action must be taken in order to provide an acceptable service for the children who are its beneficiaries. The Committee strongly recommends that proposed reductions in the CSA staff levels be suspended until the Agency's Business Transformation programme, including the IT system, is proved to be fully functioning....
The continuing confusion over the state of readiness of the long-delayed IT system should be ended by the Secretary of State making an unequivocal statement to the House, before Easter 2005, on the exact status of the CS2 IT system and setting achievable targets for the completion of the programme of migration and conversion of cases from the old CSA scheme to the new. The National Audit Office should investigate the background to the contract with the DWP's IT suppliers EDS, followed by a debate in the House....
If the responses to our report do not provide the information necessary to make a judgement as to whether the CSA as currently constituted can be rescued, the Committee recommends that consideration be given to the option of winding up the Child Support Agency and plans made for an alternative set of policies that work, in order to provide financial support for children. We also recommend that our successor Committee considers alternative policies in the event of the CSA being wound up.