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Child maintenance reform proposals are high risk
Plans by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission to reduce its spending are high risk, according to the National Audit Office.
There is already a £44 million shortfall in the £161 million reduction originally expected by 2014-15. The Commission is reliant on raising £71 million in fee income from parents as part of its planned savings. These estimates are very uncertain, increasing the risk that additional cuts might be needed late on in the Spending Review that could have an adverse effect on services.
According to the National Audit Office, the existing child maintenance schemes were problematic from the start and large backlogs of work built up. Efficiency has improved since 2006 and the cost of administering child maintenance has reduced. There are strong indications that costs remain high. Comparisons with Australia are difficult, but the fact that the Commission spends approximately 56 pence for each £1 it collects for parents, while Australia spent 35 pence raises questions about the relative efficiency of the Commission.
It is the opinion of the National Audit office that the Commission’s plans to reduce costs are high risk and not sufficiently developed to secure the savings needed. The Commission needs to consider alternative options for restructuring and introduce measures to improve productivity.
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