CSA continues to grapple with IT problems

The government has said the Child Support Agency is still grappling with problems on its £450 million EDS-built customer system.

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The government has said the Child Support Agency is still grappling with problems on its £450 million EDS-built customer system.

Some 36,900 cases are still being processed manually as a result of problems with the software, according to Susan Park, operations director at the CSA.

Processing cases manually is a time-consuming, resource-heavy process that the CSA is trying to abolish. But Park pointed out that the near-37,000 cases being dealt with that way represented “less than three percent” of the total case load.

But the call centre part of the system, where interactive voice response software takes customer details automatically, is succeeding in saving staff time, Park said. While call duration in the year to March 2008 was largely the same as the year before in key CSA offices such as Belfast, Birkenhead, Dudley, Falkirk, Hastings, Plymouth and Liverpool, more is being handled by the system instead of by customer service agents. The CSA took 5.4 million customer calls in the year to March 2008.

The government faces significant expenditure as it tries to remedy the severe IT problems the CSA has faced. Last November, the CSA said it would carry out a large IT upgrade, including crucial fixes to the CS2 system and telecoms enhancements, as part of its up to £320 million operational improvement plan.

Under the plan, suppliers EDS and BT will pull together interconnected projects, set better targets for IT resources, and train staff on the system. The government wants the CSA to process cases more efficiently, and improve accounting as a result. In the last quarter, the CSA said that computer systems were failing to count some payments that had been made by parents.

The original EDS system had 500 faults, which were found three years after it was built. In January 2007, the CSA began the upgrade to CS2, in order to process applications to join the child support scheme that were stuck in the system.

Some £208 million will be spent over the next three years on IT at the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, which will replace the CSA. By 2010, an additional £25 million will go towards IT restructuring at the CSA, following £85 million spent by the government so far.

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