Government defends rigorous testing of new CSA IT system

The Government has hit back at criticism of its progress on the Child Support Agency's (CSA) new £200m IT system, following...

The Government has hit back at criticism of its progress on the Child Support Agency's (CSA) new £200m IT system, following reports that it was still not capable of achieving its original aim.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which is responsible for the CSA, said that it was good practice to test the system thoroughly before implementing long-awaited child support reforms. "It is common sense in IT practice to test new systems properly before launching them," she said.

The Government's planned reforms of the CSA will provide simple maintenance calculations based on 15% of the parent's income for one child, 20% for two children and 25% if there are three children.

"We are thoroughly and rigorously testing the new system before introducing the reforms," the DWP spokeswoman said.

However, there is still no firm go-live date for the new system, which is being developed by EDS, and was originally due to be in place by April this year. DWP officials say that the launch date will be a ministerial decision.

The project hit the headlines earlier this year when reports suggested that the IT system was £50m over budget and likely to be delayed until next summer.

MPs have expressed their dismay at the continuing delays. Earlier this year Liberal Democrat IT spokesman Richard Allan called on the Government to explain who was at fault for the delay.

Child Support Agency IT: "a new build"
Precise details of the CSA IT system that will underpin the child support reforms are hard to come by, although a DWP spokeswoman confirmed that is "is a completely new build". She added "There will be interfaces with other government systems."
In March, Alistair Darling, then secretary of state for work and pensions, told MPs that the system would be delayed until after the testing was completed. "We face a major task in building a new IT system that can handle upwards of 13 million payments each year," he explained. "It also needs to link up with other IT systems in the department which are based on 1980s technology."

The DWP has some of the biggest computer systems in the western world, which deal with seven billion transactions a year, Darling added.

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