The Child Support Agency made "dramatic improvements" last year, the Government claimed yesterday as it launched a new offensive in the propaganda battle to turn round the agency's disastrous image.
Publishing an end-of-year report which showed that the CSA had exceeded three of its five key performance targets, Andrew Mitchell, a junior social security minister, claimed the agency was "well on its way to providing a high-quality service for all its clients".
But Malcolm Wicks, Labour's spokesman on the CSA, said: "They are improving from such an abysmally low base that it is hardly a triumph of good public administration."
The CSA collected or arranged pounds 302m of maintenance payments in the last financial year (against a pounds 300m target), 79 per cent of which were correct to the last penny (75 per cent), and 97 per cent of payments received from absent parents were passed on to the parents looking after children within 10 working days (90 per cent).
But the agency managed to process only 48 per cent of new applications for maintenance within six months, as against its target of 60 per cent. The highly-critical report will be debated by MPs tomorrow.