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Report on Progress of New Child Maintenance Scheme

A recent report by the National Audit Office has found that the Department for Work and Pensions has successfully introduced the first phase of the Child Maintenance 2012 scheme.

However, the spending watchdog has warned that the scheme’s overall objectives might be at risk if the number of people intending to use family-based arrangements does not improve over current levels.

The 2012 scheme replaces the existing 1993 and 2003 child support statutory schemes, which struggled with IT problems leading to poor customer service and incomplete information about outstanding debt.

The two-phase 2012 scheme has been designed by the DWP to encourage parents to make their own arrangements for child maintenance. Phase 1 brought in a new IT system and simplified rules for applicants. Phase 2, expected to start in June 2014, will introduce charging to encourage parents to make family-based arrangements.

“The Department for Work and Pensions has significantly simplified the way it administers child maintenance and is approaching expected levels of performance,” commented Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office. “However, there are indications that fewer parents are intending to choose family-based arrangements, and this is concerning.”

“I am pleased to see that the Department is proceeding cautiously and aiming to learn from experience,” he added. “Significant tasks still lie ahead for the Department. However, delivering value for money from the 2012 scheme will depend on winding up the remaining legacy cases from previous schemes and successfully implementing technology improvements.”

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