The Child Support Agency (CSA) will use two different systems to assess parents for child support for up to a year after its still-delayed new computer system is in place.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said that the delayed system, due to be in place in April 2002 to deal with new reforms to the way the benefit is calculated, will only deal with new CSA cases for around the first year of operation.
This is to give staff time to get used to the new arrangements. It will mean that new cases will be assessed using the new streamlined system, while existing cases will continue to be assessed under the old rules.
Only when the old cases are moved over to the new system will they be reassessed under the new rules.
The existing system calculates child support liability from over 100 different pieces of paper, while the new system is based on the number of children and on the parents' net income.
A DWP spokeswoman told vnunet.com that the department planned to up the caseload on the new system gradually.
"It's a completely new system to support child support reform," she said. "It will take approximately a year to bring existing clients onto the new scheme.
"Bulk conversion of existing clients onto the new system takes time. It is to do with the computers and the new arrangements in general."
But Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary David Willetts maintained that the delay will affect hundreds of thousands of families.
"The fact that [Work and Pensions Secretary] Andrew Smith has failed to make any actual reforms to the CSA is particularly damning, considering that the full reform of the child support system, including a new formula to run on new computers, should have been fully completed by this April," he said.
"The government is letting down the children the CSA was designed to help."
The DWP could not say when the system, which is intended to simplify the calculations required to assess child support payments and underpins a number of CSA reforms, is expected to be ready.
It was delayed because more testing was needed. Parliament was told in June that testing was continuing.
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