Child Support Agency IT will cost £320m to fix say MPs

The IT system at the doomed Child Support Agency (CSA) still had 500 defects three years after it was built – and an improvement plan will cost up to £320m, MPs have revealed.

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The IT system at the doomed Child Support Agency (CSA) still had 500 defects three years after it was built – and an improvement plan will cost up to £320m, MPs have revealed.

A scathing report on the failed agency by the powerful Commons public accounts committee says reforms to the child support system have already cost more than £539m since 2000, but the IT system introduced to implement them has “never fully supported” the objective of processing maintenance applications accurately and quickly.

The CSA was scrapped a year ago, speeded on its way by a damning National Audit Office report into the £456m CS2 case management system, provided by EDS under a 10-year private finance initiative contract.

Department of Work and Pensions figures show that at the end of December, just 42% of the CSA’s 1.4m cases had been transferred to CS2, with 58% still held on predecessor systems.

The public accounts committee warned: “The agency needs not only to fix the IT problems, but also to rebuild staff confidence which has been damaged by previous failed attempts to provide a workable system.”

There is a backlog of 239,000 uncleared cases – down from around 333,000 in June 2006 – and 36,000 new cases have become stuck in the system because of IT problems, the MPs found.

An operational improvement plan aimed at tackling the backlog and stabilising the new IT system by fixing the 500 defects could cost up to £320m, but given the scale of the CSA’s problems, there will be “no quick solution”, the MPs warned.

The committee acknowledged that the IT systems to deliver the child support reforms carried a high level of risk because of their size, complexity and the development.

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