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Government IT contracts can make you cry: official

EDS and CSA bring a tear to the eye

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Research commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions into the workings of the Child Support Agency reveals staff are still struggling with EDS's new computer system dubbed CS2.*

The report called Child Support Reform: The views and experiences of CSA staff and new clients was carried out by Bristol University. The researchers interviewed senior CSA staff and clients.

Although the interviews covered a variety of subjects the new computer system was "the most widely discussed issue at every group interview." And these discussions weren't entirely full of praise for EDS.

CSA workers "described a system with many problems not suited to their job and made worse in some instances by inadequate training...Members of staff were very frustrated by the speed of the new system and felt embarrassed when callers were kept on hold whilst screens refreshed very slowly."

Some managers believe the system could be improved and made to work well. The workflow system is not working in any of the Business Units. Staff told researchers "they were having problems with data coming from the Jobcentre Plus Interface - information received by CSA was often wrong or incomplete, even if correctly entered." None of the Administrative Officers questioned was happy with the training received and some staff received no training at all.

These problems, and the low morale they caused, meant: "every single day someone in their office would be (literally) crying through stress and frustration."

EDS refused to comment on the research but a spokesman told El Reg: "We remain committed to the CSA and the team working there." The firm also had nothing to say about its ongoing battle to get £13.3m in payments which the DWP is refusing to pay.

The research was quietly published on the DWP website at the end of last month. The PDF is available here. Interviews were carried out between May and September 2004.®

* Readers wondering why this might be should look no further than this parliamentary answer from outgoing Pensions Minister Alan Johnson. "Indeed, our staff are working on four different systems: the old scheme on the old IT, the new scheme on the old IT, the new scheme on the new IT, and clerical cases," said Alan in February. Managing IT change? They've heard of it, OK...

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