CSA hires Chick Smith Trott to back relaunch of service

Beleaguered government organisation the Child Support Agency (CSA) has appointed Chick Smith Trott to handle the launch next year of a streamlined version of the child-maintenance payment system.

The agency won the business in a head-to-head pitch against Leo Burnett. It takes on the account as the CSA prepares to be replaced by a tougher body.

The overhaul follows extensive criticism that the organisation has failed to reduce child poverty, has not been able to handle its caseload and has not fairly handled those cases it has dealt with.

The CSA was established in 1993 to try to force absent parents to take financial responsibility for their children. However, it has come under fire for inefficiency, wasting taxpayers' money and failing to pursue individuals who refused to pay.

By March this year the amount of maintenance that remained uncollected by the CSA totalled £3.5bn; as of July, it had a backlog of 330,000 cases.

As part of a recovery process, in February the organisation unveiled an 'Operational improvement plan' and subsequently hired media agency PHD to devise a fresh communications strategy.

However, in the summer a review commissioned by work and pensions secretary John Hutton recommended that the CSA be scrapped and replaced by a smaller, more focused body.

Legislation to replace the CSA, improve the child-support system and reform the welfare system was announced in last month's Queen's Speech and is due to go through Parliament early next year.

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