Wikeley, Nick, Barnett, Sarah, Brown, James, Davis, Gwynn, Diamond, Ian, Draper, Teresa and Smith, Patten
National survey of child support agency clients research report. London, UK, Department of Work and Pensions, 196pp.
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This report presents the findings from a survey of 2,500 Child Support Agency clients and provides information on their characteristics, experiences and attitudes prior to the implementation of the Child Support reforms in 2002. It will serve as a baseline against which to evaluate whether the forthcoming reforms produce a system that is accessible, comprehensible and responsive to parents.
The research was undertaken by IPSOS-RSL with academics from the University of Southampton and the University of Bristol.
The main findings are:
* Respondents views on accessibility i.e. approaching the agency and customer handling issues attracted reasonably positive feedback. Most respondents found the CSA’s letters easy to understand and the application form reasonably easy to complete.
* Just under half of parents with care and about one third of non-resident parents said they were usually able to get through to a member of staff who could help them. However, nearly half of non-resident parents and a third of parents with care experienced difficulty in finding a member of staff who was familiar with their case, as many people had previously dealt with their case.
* Most respondents did not understand the calculations underpinning their maintenance assessment and less than half believed that the calculations were accurate. Understanding the maintenance calculation was found to be a key indicator of non-resident parents’ compliance in paying maintenance. This is one of the main areas being targeted by the reforms.
CSA Response to customer needs:
* Measures of responsiveness were mixed. Respondents generally reported that when they were telephoned by a CSA member of staff they called at a convenient time, they were polite and explained the purpose of the call. The majority of parents with care felt that staff were helpful, tactful, and sensitive.
* Respondents were not as satisfied with the CSAs response to complaints reporting the CSA to be slow in responding. Fewer than one in three non-resident parents and one in four parents with care were satisfied with the Agency’s response to letters which they had sent.
* Respondents generally felt that the CSA had failed to take action in response to non-payment of maintenance.
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