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back to article Risky child-support plans rely too much on new IT system – NAO

Plans by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission to cut spending are risky and rely too much on the introduction of a new IT system, according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO). The commission has committed to cutting its budget to £428m in 2014-15 – although this is £44m higher than than its original …

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Anonymous Coward

I can see this going bad.

Expect unreasonable demands for payment and a rise in the suicide rate for single fathers.

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Silver badge
WTF?

Re: I can see this going bad.

Not exactly thinking of the children there are we?

I suspect you already have a Batman costume.

Please explain the 'unreasonable demands' and the 'rise in suicide rates', thank you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: I can see this going bad.

For further evidence, see:

The last time the UK government implemented an IT project.

The last time that the CSA implemented a new system

The children need support from both their parents. Hammering absent parents for money they do not have is not in the best interests of the children, who need a consistent stable environment.

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Stop

Re: Re: I can see this going bad.

"Not exactly thinking of the children there are we?"

That is not the ONLY consideration. The CSA in principle is a great idea. In practice, having been on the receiving end of it, it was a disaster.

In the 90s, I had pre-existing agreement with my Ex Wife to pay in excess of the CSA calculated amount, and paid regularly by standing order. My Ex unfortunately had to claim income support, this triggered the CSA getting involved. They refused to take account of the payments already made. They tried to double charge me despite my having already paid more than they were requesting and despite my Ex telling them I had already paid (and still was). They made an attachment of earnings order anyway and I was left with less than I needed to live. They only backed down (grudgingly) when I took the case to my MP and it went all the way to the house of Lords.

This seemed to be down to the collection performance targets that were set and someone already paying was an easy target.

Yhey sent my financial statements to my Ex and hers to me by mistake. I certainly felt suicidal and worthless from the way I was treated, and this DESPITE being an amicable split and being a good parent and paying already. The man my Ex left me for hid his assets and paid his ex nothing at all, as it was too difficult to chase.

The CSA as it was in the 90s was evil and ruined the lives of many couples. I don't know of anyone that it helped.

Yes, like in any cause there were extremists who just jumped on the bandwagon and didn't want to pay anything, but don't belittle us all with your trite reference to a batman costume. It was at least in part the guys in batman suits that brought the publicity to the thousands of people like me caught up in the fiasco that was the CSA.

The CSA could cause an argument in an empty room.

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Anonymous Coward

@ I can see this going bad. 9:44 GMT.

I never got the men who do their kids & themselves in desperation.

If you turn up in the news having drowned yourself then Harriet Harman can justifiably view you as one less man to vote against her. But if you are in the news for walking into your local court, your wife's office, or the Fawcett Society hq with a cut throat, having beheaded as many of those who did it to you, before CO19 mows you down, then you have made your point in a way that will actually change something.

Slightly less extreme, and what I'd prefer you did, is just vote your MP out, and make it clear why. Men are their own worst enemy, they vote for what they believe is best for their dependents and friends. Women (and everyone else who are too weak to survive on their own,) vote for who will give them more of men's tax.

So avoiding value judgements, while politicians may be self-serving, thieving cowards, we can't blame the filthy worthless scum whores for acting against you if you won't ever vote them out. They have teams of political analysts (usually children who grow up to be people like Ed Miliband,) and they'd react in a second if you actually did vote like women do. One of the funniest things I ever heard was ex MP Mellor, on LBC97.3 saying that he spoke as he found. Pure comedy.

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Re: I can see this going bad.

@Tarquin

Similar thing happened to a guy I knew from scuba diving - CSA rode roughshod over a perfectly sensible agreement and screwed things up royally in order to meet get another chalk against their targets.

I did a review of the IT systems just after the first IT disaster - report was ignored as usual :CSAputsheadinsand:

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FFS

How many times will we have to pay to watch another slowmo car-crash government IT project?

Once again the lure of the single integrated solution has seduced the suits in charge, despite the abysmal track record of this approach to government procurement. No doubt the subtle influence of "objective", "impartial", "professional" consultants played a part.

The monolithic nature of the project, coupled with Whitehall's renowned speed of thought and response, will mean that it is incapable of tracking changes in legislation and operating practice, nevrmind changes in technology.

Add in "two distinct routes for specifying requirements and resulted in duplicated, conflicting and ambiguous specifications" and I will bet my own hard earned money that this will tunr into yet another money pit which will eventually be abandoned in favour of a newer grlitzier "solution".

The really sad thing is that this is not rocket science. It's basically a database application no different to many existing commercial systems. The detail differs but the concepts are the same. Maybe it should be given to Google or Amazon to develop.

The real losers, however, will be the "customers" and the poor harrassed staff who will have to deal with the almost inevitable delays and mistakes and "computer errors".

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FAIL

@Elmer Phud

Unreasonable demands is the CSA deciding they're not only doubling the agreed amount you're already paying but back dating it for several months and putting you in a downward spiral of debt, taking thousands of pounds from you and then not passing that money on to your children thus putting an intolerable strain on the relationship with your ex becasue she assumes you're somehow avoiding paying.

It's an IT system that's built on party dogma, to mercilessly batter divorcees, and unless you've experienced it you wouldn't believe it. Ironically, the real victims were the 'absent' parents who actually wanted to contribute to their kids upbringing, who were made to pay at least double to make up for the money they couldn't be arsed getting from the real 'feckless fathers'. The other victims were the 'parent with care', normally the mothers, who they let down massively by spending money on their shit EDS Thatcher Hobbyhorse computer rather than passing the money on, and ultimately the children who they were pretending to 'Support'.

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Bronze badge

Transparency, fairness and value for money.

Our expectations of government systems and how they are delivered exceeds the capacity of any IT organisation to deliver them, certainly on a macro scale.

Because, for any of the above reasons, every IT project has to show the above, and the governance required often costs more than the technology and implementation work, in-fact when budgets get squeezed, its the technology and implementation that suffers, not the governance.

Those mantras often, as already pointed out, government, or their consultants hanging on like grim death to requirements that have no value, and will never be used, just so that they can show that they have got what they paid for. The consultants are the worst, because they more than anyone else have a vested interest in delaying contracts, as they get more money, the supplier gets the same, and the government pays more.

These delays mean you have to descope, because a Minister wants to make an announcement, on a certain date, so you have to go-live with half tested, and incomplete systems.

And those are just the tip of the iceburg. Perhaps the Reg would like to do an article on 101 things not to do as a customer or supplier in a government contract.

Just in case you think, I might be coming down on the supplier side, actually no, we're all as bad as each other.

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If

If the government was a parent and if government IT projects were children then, long ago, the government would have had its IT projects taken away from it as there is more than enough proof that the government is unfit.

However they are the government and we continue to vote them in and so we will continue to pay for vast, non-functional IT projects.

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Anonymous Coward

Same old problem

Had my first contact with Government computing around 27 years ago, last one about five years ago, from what I can see it's always the same problems:

1. Trying to convince senior managers IT systems are not self aware intelligences who can wholly replace human staff

2. Hiring the "usual suspects" to implement it, using the cheapest most poorly trained ICT staff available (Cheapest to the "usual suspects" that is.)

3. Changing every aspect of the project, the features it should contain and what it can handle as often as is practical

4. Always attempt as wide a coverage as you can even though what you are attempting has never been done on a nationwide basis, size the hardware to handle just a few dozen users a day because it's "cheaper".

5. Never, I repeat Never let the people who will actually have to use the software have any contact on it while in development or any say in it's layout or operation, also make the interface as unfriendly and complex as you can.

6. Once produced allow the development team to disband and go on to other things as quickly as possible because all code is bug free

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FAIL

The fail is strong in this one.

1) Merging functionality of 2 systems *neither* of which do what they were meant to.

2) *NO* backup plan. In another context I'd say "Are you sh***ing me?" But this as one of those arms-length quasi autonomous govt bodies so I already know they are not.

3) And probably no 2nd choice for a supplier either.

4)What's the betting one of the companies who wrote one (or possibly *both*) of the failed systems will get the contract. IIRC EDS (Now HP) did CSA 1 but can't remember if they or A.N. Other did the 2nd attempt (Crap Gemini? Cretinously Stupid Conmen?)

BTW *technically* this is a casework management system with a database *underlying* the casework management structure and Including payment collection (and possibly payment) facilities.

Somewhat like the things used by insurance companies to process claims, or *big* law firms to track cases (and more important who to bill their *very* expensive partners time to) chich typically incorporate a bunch of checklists and timers to support compliance with various legal rules or big accounts firms to do likewise

True it will not be *precisely* like these but the *structure* of this sort of problem is not exactly at the leading edge of computer science.

Odds this will be FUBAR'd?

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Mushroom

Not all large gov IT systems go wrong...

... just the ones you hear about. For example, did El Reg cover the on-time-and-on-budget successful implementation of the IT to support the new ESA benefit in 2008? Thought not. Nearly 100,000 man days of IT development and it worked fine == no interest in the press.

Instead of moaning, why don't some of you clever clogs go and work in public sector IT and make it work better - if you think you're gods gift to systems development then you'll have no problem keeping it out of the news.

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