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Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Miss Ann Chant. She will write to the noble Lord.

Letter to Earl Russell from the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency, Miss Ann Chant, dated 1st April 1996.

I am replying to your parliamentary Question to Her Majesty's Government concerning the possibility of notifying the Benefits Agency of the amount of maintenance actually paid.

Where maintenance does not extinguish income support entitlement, the agency normally arranges to

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collect child support maintenance unless full and regular payments are made directly to the parent with care (PWC). This ensures that the PWC will receive full income support entitlement and a consistent income each week, even where maintenance is not paid.

Where these arrangements do not apply, for example where maintenance extinguishes entitlement to income support, routinely notifying the Benefits Agency of the amount of maintenance actually paid would not improve the PWC's position. Income Support rules mean that, regardless of any notification, the PWC would still need to make a repeat claim whenever their maintenance fell below a certain level. Extra Child Support Agency intervention would therefore involve costly extra administrative work for few tangible benefits. For this reason, the agency has no plans to introduce this measure once payments of maintenance have started.

However, notification of the amount of maintenance due when a case is first assessed can lead to income support ceasing before the first payment of maintenance is even received. At present the Benefits Agency are alerted to the sum due as soon as the assessment is completed so there is a real risk that if payment is not subsequently received the PWC is inconvenienced and has to reclaim income support. The agency is currently piloting a new arrangement to avoid this problem. This is intended to ensure that initial income support entitlement is not affected until payment has actually commenced.

I hope this is helpful.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the third report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Investigation of Complaints against the Child Support Agency), whether the Child Support Agency can improve its procedures for logging the receipt of correspondence and telephone messages; and

    Further to the third report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Investigation of Complaints against the Child Support Agency), whether they agree that the errors listed in that report reveal an excessive reliance by the Child Support Agency on the word processor and the standard letter, rather than on individual correspondence.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Miss Ann Chant. She will write to the noble Lord.

Letter to Earl Russell from the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency, Miss Ann Chant, dated 1st April 1996.

I am replying to your parliamentary Question to Her Majesty's Government about Child Support Agency procedures for logging incoming telephone calls and mail, and the use of standard letters and word processors.

The agency has already made considerable improvements in the handling and logging of incoming mail and telephone calls.

2 Apr 1996 : Column WA31

The current procedures and guidance on incoming mail include a manual which provides Child Support Agency Centre (CSAC) staff with written instructions on the handling of written correspondence received via the Royal Mail or the DSS internal courier service. It contains specific instructions on the logging of recorded delivery mail, including items of value and monetary payments of child support maintenance. Child Support Agency area staff (in field offices), refer to the Child Support Manual for instructions on handling written correspondence referred to them by the Benefits Agency post opening team.

In addition, each CSAC has a team whose job it is to check all correspondence, excluding letters to specific persons, for urgent items which, once identified, are recorded on the Child Support Computer System (CSCS) before being sent to the appropriate section to action. The team has a target to distribute incoming mail to the appropriate section within 24 hours of receipt. There are currently 127 pieces of unactioned and unlinked post in the Agency's six CSACs.

Parliamentary correspondence is passed to the Customer Service Section for action; tight controls are in place to monitor progress.

All CSACs have Client Helplines (previously known as Call Handling Teams) who record details of all case specific calls on CSCS. A telephone enquiry which requires action by another section is passed on with a written referral. During February 1996, the total number of calls made to the six CSAC Client Helplines was over 411,000; in addition, over 43,000 were made to the National Enquiry Line during this period.

The procedures that are currently in place for dealing with telephone calls and incoming mail have been developed since the launch of the agency in 1993. During their development, organisational changes have been made to deal with incoming mail more efficiently and staff have been made aware of the need to reply to all communications properly.

Finally, I turn to your point regarding the excessive reliance by the agency on the word processor and the standard letter. The agency does indeed use a number of standard letters. This ensures a consistent standard of correspondence in terms of both content and presentation when the agency is replying to the same standard questions. The debt management side of the agency's business is computerised and letters are, therefore, generated by the computer system.

We are currently reviewing our standard letters to see if there is scope for further improvements. There are circumstances, however, where the use of a standard letter would not be appropriate, and in such situations a more personal and individual letter is issued. All such letters are signed by the sending officer, and a telephone number is given for help and information.

I hope this is helpful.

National Debt

Lord Lawson of Blaby asked Her Majesty's Government:

2 Apr 1996 : Column WA32

    Whether for each year from 1950 to 1995 inclusive they will state the national debt as a percentage of GDP.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The information requested is shown in the table.

National Debt as a percentage of GDP

Year
1950203.2
1951180.7
1952167.3
1953156.9
1954151.3
1955143.6
1956134.9
1957127.2
1958122.2
1959117.5
1960110.5
1961106.2
1962102.6
1963101.6
196494.0
196587.4
196684.3
196781.6
196881.5
196974.7
197066.8
197160.6
197258.3
197352.0
197450.8
197546.6
197647.9
197748.5
197849.5
197946.8
198043.1
198146.2
198244.1
198343.7
198445.4
198546.1
198646.1
198745.9
198843.9
198938.8
199036.7
199137.9
199236.3
199340.1
199446.6
199550½

NB: Debt figures are for end-March. GDP figures are for year centred on end-March. National Debt comprises the total liabilities of the National Loans Fund. This total excludes accrued interest on national savings, Consolidated Fund liabilities, liabilities of other central government funds, and other contingent liabilities and guaranteed debt.


UK Current Revenue and Spending

Lord Lawson of Blaby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will state for each year from 1950 to 1995 inclusive.

2 Apr 1996 : Column WA33


    (a) Central government current revenue;


    (b) Central government current expenditure;


    (c) Local government current revenue;


    (d) Local government current expenditure; expressing each as a percentage of GDP.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The attached table shows spending and revenue as a percentage of GDP on a national accounts definition for central government and local government.

The data necessary to calculate these proportions are only available back to 1955 and up to Q3 1995.

Central and Local Government Current Revenue and Expenditure (percentage of GDP)

Central Government Local Government
RevenueExpenditureRevenueExpenditure
195528.526.06.55.8
195628.225.97.06.2
195727.925.47.36.4
195828.726.07.56.6
195927.225.87.66.6
196027.126.07.78.5
196128.826.87.97.2
196228.426.88.37.5
196327.226.58.67.6
196427.825.58.67.6
196529.526.49.08.2
196630.227.29.68.6
196731.728.910.09.1
196833.528.610.09.1
196935.228.110.59.4
197034.928.110.79.7
197133.329.110.99.7
197230.929.110.89.7
197331.930.811.410.5
197434.534.312.511.7
197535.036.513.812.1
197635.036.013.011.7
197733.934.812.010.9
197833.134.811.510.6
197934.234.611.210.6
198035.237.012.111.3
198137.738.612.311.2
198237.138.512.011.0
198336.838.912.211.2
198437.539.111.711.2
198537.037.611.210.7
198635.837.011.310.7
198735.835.410.910.4
198834.732.610.410.1
198934.432.210.29.8
199036.234.610.610.1
199136.737.311.110.8
199234.539.511.611.0
199334.039.711.010.3
199434.838.910.710.3


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