Amyas Morse, Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), has qualified his audit opinions on the Client Funds Accounts prepared by the Department for Work and Pensions for the 1993 and 2003 Child Maintenance Schemes on the grounds of material levels of irregular receipts and payments and misstated arrears balances. However he has given a clean audit opinion on the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme Account after improvements in the accuracy of assessing child maintenance claims.
This is the first year in which the 2012 Scheme Account has received an unmodified opinion from the C&AG. The Department expects accuracy to improve further as it increases the proportion of child maintenance assessment calculations that are automated. However unpaid maintenance on the 2012 Scheme cases has increased by £55.8 million since last year to £113.8 million.
The Department is closing the 1993 and 2003 Child Maintenance Schemes, supporting parents to set up family based maintenance arrangements or apply to the 2012 Scheme. The C&AG has once again qualified his opinions on the 1993 and 2003 scheme Account. He has estimated irregular receipts and payments of £11.3 million, or 2.75% of total receipts. The C&AG also estimates that the arrears balance reported in the Account relating to unpaid maintenance is understated by at least £99.8 million (2.7% of the total arrears balance), largely due to errors in underlying assessment calculations that are compounded when the cases are managed outside of the IT systems. While the Department is trying to recover arrears accumulated under these Schemes, it is not carrying out retrospective corrections. This means it cannot ensure that the £3.7 billion it is trying to recover is an accurate figure. The Department is also unable to write this debt off, which means that unless action is taken, the 1993 and 2003 Scheme Account will report an outstanding arrears balance long after all the cases have closed.