Public Accounts Committee highlights child maintenance IT risks

Government plans to close 800,000 legacy child maintenance cases are being jeopardised by delayed delivery of a data warehouse, according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

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Government plans to close 800,000 legacy child maintenance cases are being jeopardised by delayed delivery of a data warehouse, according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The data warehouse, commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 2009,  has not been delivered by supplier Capgemini “several months” after it was due to be up and running. 

Both Capgemini and the DWP refused to say why the data warehouse had been delayed and when it was due to be delivered when questioned by ComputerworldUK. 

The system is a “significant IT component of the 2012 scheme” for calculating child maintenance payments, which automatically collects data on parents’ income from HM Revenue & Customs, the committee said.

The next phase of the scheme, which was due to start in June, will see the DWP introduce charges for parents using the statutory child maintenance service.

It will also start to close 800,000 outstanding legacy cases opened when the service was run by the now-defunct Child Support Agency (whose functions were transferred back to the DWP in 2012).

However legacy cases cannot be closed until the data warehouse is up and running, the PAC report warned.

The DWP contracted Capgemini to develop a data warehouse in 2009, however much of the expected functionality remains undelivered, the National Audit Office (NAO) said in a report in June.

The data warehouse will be used for reporting and analysis, integrating data from a variety of sources to create a central information system.

It was supposed to be delivered in April 2014. In June the department told the NAO they expected it to launch this autumn. The department has now failed to provide a date for launch to the PAC and said it was “uncertain” about when the system would be fully operational.

Contingency solutions are in place, which are timetabled to end in June 2016, and officials said they were “confident” the data warehouse would be available by then, the PAC noted.

If the data warehouse is not ready in time, the DWP will incur extra costs and inconvenience by having to operate legacy systems for longer.

The report said: “The department expected to achieve the largest cost savings once it is able to turn off the old legacy systems. It recognised that if it were unable to close all the cases on the old legacy systems, it would incur a huge cost of continuing to operate them.”

Former chief executive of the Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission (CMEC) Noel Shanahan told the PAC twice that the warehouse would be available “in the middle of this year” when questioned as far back as spring 2012. 

PAC chair Margaret Hodge MP said: ““Risks remain regarding closing legacy cases and moving them to the new scheme.

“Delays in setting it up the ‘data warehouse’ required to close the legacy cases from the previous systems have resulted in increased costs to the Department. It must ensure that it has the necessary systems in place by the time it closes complex cases.”

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