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Child Support Agency system hit by new problems

EDS HP SNAFU

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Updated The Child Support Agency's (CSA) much-criticised computer system is again struggling this week, with staff unable to access case files because it is running so slowly.

The problems began to emerge on Monday. Callers are being advised to try again later in the week, or being promised a call back when the system is back to normal.

Engineers from HP Enterprise Services, formerly EDS, which built the CS2 system, are currently on site trying to pinpoint the cause.

"The system is not 'down' but we are unable to immediately answer case-specific queries and clients are being asked to call back," a spokesman for the Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission, which oversees the CSA, told The Register.

"Caseworkers remain available to help with general enquiries and maintenance payments have not been affected by this issue."

CS2 was built by EDS in 2003 under a PFI contract worth £456m. It has been widely seen as a disaster, with the National Audit Office and MPs joined in repeated sharp criticisms. The influential Public Accounts Committee labelled it "a turkey from day one".

In 2007 the government announced it would spend a further £300m in an attempt to improve CS2. This week's renewed failures show the system - which handles about half the CSA's case load - remains seriously flawed.

Andrew, a Reg reader who has been affected by this week's problems, said: "This is causing a lot of stress and upset for those of us who are trying to legitimately deal with the CSA and who are now 'on hold' unable to add to information to their cases.

"I'm under a lot of stress, haven't slept for days and have to keep waiting with the millstone of an incorrect calculation around my neck."

The CSA said HP Enterprise Services is working as quickly as possible to identify and fix the latest fault. ®

Update

The Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission said late on Thursday that the system was back to normal.

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