The Child Support CS2 system's 400 "insoluble" problems

Kable has an article on the “almost exponential rise” in the number of clerical cases being handled by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission which will eventually take over from the Child Support Agency.

It would be wrong to jump to the conclusion that EDS, the developer of CS2, is wholly to blame.


Thesystem as specified by the Child Support Agency made assumptions of areform in the working practices of staff. But that didn’t happen, whichleft the CSA with a system that was out of step with ways of working.That said,there were – and are – serious technical problems.

In 2006 the National Audit Office found that more than 500 defects with the CS2 system “were having a significant impact on staff productivity and maintenance outcomes”.

The Work and Pensions Committee reported on 10 February 2010:

“… The remaining defects in the CS2 system are still generating a large number of problems, many of which appear to be insoluble.

“The NAO reported that, as of October 2009, the CS2 system had over 1,000 reported problems, of which 400 had no known workaround and therefore resulted in cases being stuck in the system.

“We asked the [Child Maintenance and Enforcement] Commission about these continuing IT problems and were told that it currently experienced around 3,000 IT incidents a week, 70% of which were caused by around 60 of the problems.

“This was down from 7,000 incidents a week before the launch of [CS2] Productivity Release 1, and was expected to fall below 2,000 by April 2010…

“Despite the progress …there still remain a very large number of IT problems which have no workaround and are causing cases to get stuck.

“We are concerned that the work conducted over the course of the Operational
Improvement Plan to rectify the problems with the CS2 IT system have either not
resolved the problems or have revealed new problems.

The report of the Work and Pensions Committee continues:

“In March 2006, the CSA outsourced the management of clerical cases to Vertex Data
Science Limited in an attempt to reduce the burden of these cases on CSA staff.

“However, the continuing increase in clerical cases has required the retention of 302 caseworkers to manage wholly clerical processes and 252 caseworkers to manage partly clerical cases within the Commission.

The Commission estimated the cost of managing clerical cases in September 2009 at
around £3.7m per month, including the cost both of the contract with Vertex Data
Science Limited and of its own staff doing the work in-house.

“However, as the number of clerical cases rises, the cost of managing them will also rise. The NAO has estimated that the annual cost of managing each clerical case is £967 compared to £312 per case administered through the IT systems.”

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is developing anentirely new statutory maintenance scheme that will replace the twoschemes currently provided by the CSA from 2011.

The Child Support Agency will remain in use until all of its cases havebeen closed and parents have been invited to apply to the new schemeand this process will take until 2014 to complete.

On Tuesday Kable said that the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission has set up a frameworkfor support services including ICT, advertised as being worth £300m to£500m
It has awarded Capita, IBM, Steria, Vertex Data Science, EAGA, Vangent and Ventura places on the framework.

As well as the framework, Tata Consultancy Services is being paid £45mto build a new IT system, which will be based on commercialoff-the-shelf software to reduce the risk of the project’s failing.

**

If the Conservatives come to power, will all this spending pass the Tory limit of £100m on new IT-based projects? If the projects go ahead will the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission create a new IT-based disaster because lessons from CSA2 haven’t been learnt?

Links:

Poor IT pushes the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission to paper – Kable

Work and Pensions Committee report – February 2010

MPs given little comfort on state of CSA systems – ComputerWeekly.com, 2004

CSA head resigns – BBC

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