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Customer views on service delivery in the Child Support Agency

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Publication details

DatePublished - 1998
PublisherThe Stationery Office
Place of PublicationLondon
VolumeNo. 74
Original languageEnglish

Publication series

NameDepartment of Social Security Research Report

Abstract

This research was commissioned to investigate further a range of issues identified in the last CSA national client survey carried out in 1995. It is a qualitative study involving in-depth interviews with parents with care and absent parents. The research aimed to identify client satisfaction and dissatisfaction arising specifically from operational or staff activities.
The main findings are:

Absent parents and parents with care accepted the principle of dual responsibility. Parents with care valued the recognition of the father's responsibilities and regular payments of maintenance.
Although absent parents tended to agree with the Agency's aims, some thought they had been incorrectly implemented. The Agency was seen as pursuing 'soft targets' and thought to be ineffective in obtaining maintenance from absent parents who refused to comply.
Overall people were left with an impression of an impersonal system consisting of forms, letters and, increasingly, telephone calls. The Agency was seen as lacking even handedness in ensuring that all absent parents paid maintenance.
Many parents were dissatisfied with their assessment as they felt it was too high and therefore inaccurate. None of the parents were able to explain fully how their assessment had been calculated and many wanted to know the details of the formula used.
There were mixed views on the forms used in the assessment, some found them easy to complete, while for others it was more difficult, but few had tried to use the help notes provided. There was some objection to having to provide information on partners income and the failure to ask about debt.
Contact with the Agency was a source of dissatisfaction. Some parents disliked the tone of letters from the CSA, and many complained about delays and not being kept informed of progress. Very few parents in the study had had face-to-face contact with the CSA, but many said it would be their preferred method of contact.
Although there were no cases of the absent parent giving up work as a result of involvement with the CSA, some reported no longer working overtime or looking for promotion, as they believed any extra income would go in maintenance payments. For parents with care there was a greater incentive to take employment when maintenance replaced Income Support, but if it was not regularly received, they had to live on a reduced amount of benefit.

    Research areas

  • child well-being, employment/benefits

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