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Letter to The DHS Minister Re:CSA

After many years of harrasment I'm taking my complaints to higher powers. I have a question for those of you who reach the end!

 
Australia Government
 
Department of Human Services
 
The Minister for Human Services
 
Suite M1.52
 Parliament House
 Canberra ACT 2600

 
Email: minister@humanservices.gov.au
 

 
General Manager
 
Child Support
 
GPO Box 9815
 
Melbourne Vic 3001
 

 
Re: case XXX XXX XXX XXX
 

 
Dear Sir,
 

 
I refer to the above mentioned case in which I am the payer of entitlements.  I have had a number of unsatisfactory dealings with the Child Support Agency (CSA) in relation to harassment, errors and inability to deal appropriately with reasonable enquiries.
 

 
I have been unfortunate enough to be dealing with the CSA since 2006.  During this time I have noticed what I believe to be discrepancies, biases and injustices in many areas.  I raise some concerns below to you in the hope that at the very least some form of cogent response can be had and, at best, that the minister may see fit to conduct even a cursory investigation into what I have found to be some frequently occurring issues.
 

 
Unreasonable Communications:
 

 
I am concerned at the apparent lack of record keeping, follow-up or information provided by CSA.  On each occasion that I speak with someone from CSA, I receive differing and sometimes conflicting information about my situation or enquiries.  I am often treated in a condescending manner, with the implied undertone that I am wrongly seeking to avoid paying child support and often when I refer to a prior reference given to my by CSA staff, I am told that these references (and therefore conversations) do not exist.  On many occasions I have received so called COMPUTER GENERATED LETTERS which time and time again have been incorrect to some extent. on ringing about said letters, Im either told that it was an incorrect computer generated letter or that no record of the letter exists despite the physical copy in my possession.  I wonder if the minister would review the record keeping system and look at measures to educate staff to be impartial and respectful, as these do not appear to be in place?
 

 
I am also concerned about the harassing phone calls received by CSA at all hours of the day and night including one occasion at 5 minutes to midnight, one at 4am and on many on weekends.  In these calls I am often insulted, harassed and threatened with prosecution if I do not pay outstanding child support payments.  I am not averse to paying what is due and have made some enquiries as to this (see below), there is no need to harass and threaten me.  I have reported this to the Ombudsman who confirms that these times, frequencies and sorts of calls should not be made.  The CSA assures me that they do not make these calls and yet I often hear from them at unreasonable times.  I respectfully request that the minister re-enforces with CSA staff that calls are to be made at reasonable times and frequencies and are not to be harassing or threatening in nature.  If this behaviour continues, I shall make note of the calls and callers and seek legal advice as to my protection under s474.17 of the Criminal Code.
 

 
I have also, through and at the advice of the Ombudsman requested to CSA that I be a Write only customer.  CSA has paid no heed to this and I have re-iterated this when I received yet another call from CSA via XXX (call reference number RXXXXXXXX).  Should I receive further phone calls from CSA I shall seek legal advice as to my rights.  I respectfully request that the minister takes measures to ensure that Write only customers are just that.
 

 
In stark contrast, when I have requested information that I am reasonably entitled to, I have not received it timeously or, in some cases, at all.  On one occasion I requested a Change of Assessment and was told that it was the prerogative of the CSA staff member to issue this and they would not issue it.  On another occasion I was told that forms were in the post but over the course of 8 weeks, I received nothing.  During this time harassing and threatening calls to me continued and eventually I had to enlist the aid of the Ombudsman whereupon the forms arrived within the week.  I do not believe it unreasonable to expect prompt service or to be given reasons for refusal to provide information or forms which I can only obtain through, apparently, the discretion of whomever seems to be on duty at the time.
 

 
The behaviour of CSA staff has caused me a lot of undue stress and anxiety in what is already a very stressful and unfortunate circumstance.  I am seeking a fair and reasonable response to various matters I have raised and have been treated like a criminal at each step of the way.
 

 
Change of Circumstances / Assessment / Payments:


 


 
I refer to the case for my child XXXX XXXXXXX XXXX. This case should not be reopened. I have raised concerns that, as she has done in the past, the childs mother, XXXXX, has fraudulently informed the CSA that she has XXXX in her care when she has not.  She has received benefits that she was not entitled to and I have been refused any review or reimbursement even when CSA confirms that this has occurred.
 
When I have enquired about reimbursement of monies paid when they were not due, I have been told, e.g. in a conversation with your staff (RXXXXXXXX) that monies paid when they were not due or paid in error or following fraud are virtually unrecoverable as the law favours payees and recovery of monies depends solely upon whether she(or he) is willing to pay the money back freely. It appears that there is no recourse for monies paid due to CSA errors or inefficiencies.  For example, a letter sent to me on XX December 20XX stated that, What this means for you: You are no longer required to pay child support from XX October 20XX for XXXX because the amount of time XXXX cares for him is not enough to receive child support. 
 

 
However, payments had continued to be taken up to XX December (nearly two months) as CSA had not managed to keep me even reasonably informed and they had not acted upon their own information and ceased payments on XX October.  I have repeatedly raised this issue and informed CSA that XXXX does not have sufficient care of XXXX to attract payment of benefits, including RXXXXXXXX in September 20XX.  I have contacted your Fraud Line who refuses to assist and instead they refer me to Centre Link who also cannot assist.  I respectfully ask the minister to review not only this matter, but also the inefficiencies in the communication of information and the blatant refusal of redress for monies paid (taken) in error or in conflict with known information.
 

 
I ask that the minister please assist me in the recovery of monies overpaid (taken) by CSA.
 

 
Most importantly, I urge the minister to put in place (or review) a proper process for proof of care that, in cases where concerns are raised or probable, is done at least monthly and is not merely a word-of-mouth / telephone confirmation by the parent alleging care.
 

 
Our case history shows that XXXX is unstable and does not have the faculty to suitably care for a child.  She has made false statements about care in the past and I have not only suffered the financial cost of this but mistreatment by CSA staff.
 

 
Should the minister desire, more information in support of my complaint and circumstances in general, this can be obtained from:
 

 
Xxxx Xxxxxx
 
North West, Metropolitan region
 
71 Morland St.
 
Vic
 
(03) 92757000 
 

 
And
 

 
The Department of Child Protection Western Australia
 

 

 
Lastly, I wish to complain that the CSA appears to be an organisation that discriminates against payers and particularly against males.  In 2008 I had my son living with me whilst XXXX was in a mental health ward at the XX XXX Hospital XXX Unit.  I attempted for many months to start a child support case with the CSA but kept being told that I could not start one until CSA personally got in contact and talked with her!  Yet within 48 hours of her doing a runner with my son, CSA had sent me out a child support account and wanted me to pay without personally contacting me beforehand to discuss.  This occurred again in 2010/11 when CSA started a support case against me without contacting me personally to discuss.
 

 
As further evidence of prejudice, in my recent conversation with XXX (RXXXXXXXX), she told me if it were her case she would not have stopped child support for XXXX even though XXXX no longer had care.  I believe that there are too many CSA employees applying their own opinions, judgements and prejudices.
 

 
Of course I have tried to raise all of the above issues with CSA.  However, the CSA Complaints Line is another part of your division that decides who gets to lodge a complaint and what we get to lodge a complaint about. If they dont agree with the complaint we wish to make, CSA refuse to generate a reference.  Without this reference, I am unable to take my complaint to another level, such as the ombudsman.
 

 
I respectfully request that, if the minister will not or cannot assist me, that at least I am granted a complaint reference number so that I may take this matter outside of CSA for review.
 

 


 
In summary I am respectfully requesting of the minister:
 

 A response to my complaints in general and in regards to my personal matter:

Reimbursement of monies taken in error


Review of my case and the care of XXXX, especially the tenuous and intermittent care alleged by his mother and the woeful proof of care currently undertaken




In general I respectfully request that the minister:

Consider reviewing or reinforcing CSA procedures in regards to information, record-keeping, phone calls and write only customers


Consider reviewing or reinforcing that CSA is meant to be non-prejudicial, non-discriminatory and respectful of reasonable and appropriate enquires or concerns


Consider reviewing or reinforcing procedures to ensure efficient and accurate service and communication


Consider reviewing or reinforcing better practices in proof of care checks particularly in known problem situations


Consider reviewing or reinforcing equitable, reasonable and accountable handling of complaints and enabling complaints not resolved by CSA to be taken to the ombudsman or other relevant authority


 

 
I reiterate that I am not trying to avoid paying of entitlements.  Similarly, I do not wish to pay entitlements if I do not have to.  I wish to be treated with respect and fairness.  I wish to have reasonably prompt, efficient and unprejudiced assistance.  I wish not to be harassed and threatened unreasonably.  I wish for a reasonable and fair method of review of decisions by CSA.  Finally, I wish for my complaint to be acknowledged and dealt with in a reasonable manner.
 

 

 

 
Yours Sincerely
 

 
X X Xxxxxx

The Question I wish to ask, If I was to start a Petition on Say change .org,  How many of you would be willing to sign it and work to convince your family and friends to sign as well? 

Yes I have seen other Petitions on there re-CSA but non looking for more than 1000 signature and still only having less than 500 signatures in 12 months of operating. 

If I'm going to do one I'm going to be looking for minimum of Half a million signature and hopefully in 1 week. My view  is if we can get that many, in that time frame, the Minister/s will have to sit up and pay attention and actually act.
 
+1
Moderator Note
MINUS 100 for this particular poster who after 5 months cannot be bothered to read the site and moderator rules about short posts.
Hi GSharpe,



I would gladly sign your petition and know of many others that would too.

I have had horror dealings with the csa and are still continuing because csa hid behind an outdated legislation and their lies they csa officers tell.



Sign me up.
halo_dad said
+1
Moderator Note
MINUS 100 for this particular poster who after 5 months cannot be bothered to read the site and moderator rules about short posts.

The Moderator may not be aware that +1 is the action taken to add and recommend the post to Google Plus which is the Google equivalent of Facebook. Both are significant social media platforms with significant traffic relating to Family Law and Child Support issues. When or if we get sufficient funds we will be building the appropriate site connectors.


Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
 
I Finally got a response from the "Department" and lets just say they skirted around issues and still not totally honest in their dealings otherwise wanting to be totally in denial!
 
Mr Xxxxx Xx Xxxxx
 XX Xxxx Xxxx Road
XXXXXX XX XXXX                                                    Our reference: XXXXXXXXXXXX




Dear Mr Xx Xxxxxx

Thank you for your letter received 3 February 2013 to the Minister for Human Services, Senator the Hon Marise Payne. I have been asked to reply to you as I am the National Manager for Quality and Customer Complaints within the Department of Human Services (the department).

You have requested all communications with you be in writing.  Ordinarily, a senior officer would contact you to discuss your correspondence before replying by letter.

In your email you have raised concerns about the management of your child support case and have provided suggestions on how the department can further improve the service provided to our customers. I regret that you feel we have not provided the service expected. Please accept my apology for any distress this has caused.

To respond to your concerns I asked a senior officer from the Department, Customer Review Officer Mr Dxxxx Lxxxxxxx to investigate the issues you have raised.

In your letter you have asked for reimbursement of monies taken in error.

On 13 December 2013, the department made a decision that from 17 October 2010 you were no longer required to pay child support for Elijah. As this decision was retrospective, you have overpaid child support of $57.98 to Ms Bxxxxxxx.  In addition to the overpayment, on 20 December 2013 a further deduction of $13.92 was received from your Centrelink benefit. I have arranged for this amount of $13.92 to be refunded to your bank account. (I already contacted the CSA about this issue, and they refunded this money in December and it was actually $16.06 being $14.99 from my newstart allowance plus $1.07 from my Austudy.  So you didnt even get this fact right)

When an overpayment is created the department will attempt (and thats the problem Attempt otherwise leaving me with the option of taking her to court myself at huge expense. Unless you can guarantee paying me monies taken in error or generated by her fraudulent actions, back in cash, then dont take it at all) to collect the overpayment from the other parent.  One option available to recover the overpayment is for the receiving parent to repay the debt at 100 per cent of their future entitlement. This recovery option became available when your child support case restarted.

The department is recovering the overpayment from Ms Bxxxxxxxx at the rate of 100 per cent of her ongoing child support entitlement, this means that instead of paying your current child support liability you will not be required to make payments for the time it takes for the overpayment to be recovered. The current overpayment balance is $40.50 and the department will notify you via your monthly Child Support Account Statement when you are required to recommence payments.  Write: GPO Box 9815 MELBOURNE VIC 3001
Phone: 131 272 Fax: 1300 309 949
 
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huma nservi ces .gov .au
In your letter you have requested a review of the care arrangements of Exxxx and that the case should never have been reopened.  Under child support legislation, as soon as the department is notified of a possible care change an investigation is commenced. We will attempt to contact the other parent to ascertain if they agree (Of course she is not going to agree, would you agree if you were going to lose a free hand out? Of course you wouldnt and we are talking about a person that has an Anti-social personality disorder here) with the care change and in the event that they don't, external evidence is obtained and a decision made as expeditiously as possible. If contact cannot be made, a decision will be made on the information available . In all cases, parents have objection rights if they think the decision is wrong. (Of course I am objecting and strongly object to any case being reopened).

Our records show that on 17 January 2014 Ms Bxxxxxxxxxx made an application for child support as she stated Exxxxx had returned to her care on 16 January 2014 and on 17 January 2014, the department contacted you to discuss this application.  You advised that you did not agree that Exxxx was in Ms Bxxxxxxxxxx's care or that Exxxxx would remain in her care. (Even if he is back in her care it will only be for a short period so she can get her payments back, then it will be back to the same situation with Me paying her money she is not entitled too and she isnt going to tell you that she has not got the child, and the CSA telling me that they cant get my money back, and HELL NO Im not ever gifting any overpayment to any woman)

On 22 January 2014, the department received information from the Department for Child Protection and Family Support which confirmed that Exxxxx was currently in the care of Ms Bxxxxxxxxxx and the application for child support was accepted.

If you disagree with this decision you may lodge an objection with the department. An objection is a request to formally review a decision, must be in writing and you have 28 days to object from the day you received the decision. Any documents and evidence to support your objection (if available) should also be supplied.

If you believe other decisions the department has made are incorrect, you can also ask for a review by lodging an objection . Objections received outside the 28 day timeframe may considered if you make a request for an extension of time in writing or by calling us on 131 272. You will need to explain why you were unable to object within the timeframe and provide supporting documentation if appropriate.

Further information on Applying for a Child Support Assessment and Care can be found at our Online Child Support Guide (the Guide) in Parts 2.1 and 2.2 available on our website humanservices.gov.au.  For further information on how to object go to our website humanservices. gov.au/reviewsandappeals.

You have complained that the department appears to discriminate against payers and particularly males and that it took several months to start your child support case.

In administering the Child Support Scheme, the department is required to remain unbiased and carry out its duties in a fair and equitable manner. I regret that you feel the department has not provided you a fair and unbiased service in this instance.

You have stated in your letter that on 17 January 2014, you were advised by the Customer Service Officer (CSO) that if it were her case, she would not have stopped child support. I have had the recording of the telephone call reviewed. The recording confirmed that the CSO advised that they didn't know why your case would have ended. (Yes she did say that, but thats not all she said)

I also note that you are unhappy with the amount of time it took to commence your child support case in 2008.  Our records show that on 19 August 2008 you contacted the department to confirm that your liability to pay child support for Exxxxx had ended on 27 July 2008. (I believe I also contacted the CSA on multiple occasions before the 27th telling the CSA that I had care and I was given the run around on multiple times and also I believe this a point of time that reference numbers given to me kept suddenly not appearing on future phone calls, thus leaving me being told No that conversation doesnt exist Our records also show that you did not want to register a child support case at that time . (Ever heard of sarcasm).
On 2 September 2008 you advised that Exxxxx was in you care and you were applying for Family Tax Benefit.  The department advised that we would need to confirm care details with the other party and also requested that you provide proof of paternity (So after you had been billing me for Child support for 2 odd years you suddenly need evidence that Im the childs father and that the mother is the mother, Seriously does there not seem to be something wrong with this)? . On 19 September 2008, we received Exxxxx's birth certificate and your child support application was accepted.   ( So in the above statement the CSA took weeks to confirm with Ms Bxxxxxxxxxx that Exxxxx was not in her care and in my care, with me being told every time I rang up that the CSA had to personally talk to her and she was not answering her phone, yet in the statement below, you attempted to ring twice then sent out a letter that I got on the 24th of December a day after the 23rd and were you close down for the Christmas/New Year period, and dont actually have to talk to me!  Is this 2 different rules for 2 different people, or is that a discriminatory practice or the CSA employees doing as they see fit)?

You advised that in 2010-2011, the department commenced a case without personally contacting you. On 22 December 2010, the department registered a child support assessment where you were liable to pay child support for Exxxxx to Ms 2nd wife .(Wrong Child too wrong mother) Our records show that we attempted to telephone you on the 15 & 22 December 2010 and we also wrote to you on 15 December 2010, requesting that you contact the department by 23 December 2010. As the department did not hear from you, the application for child support was accepted on 22 December 2010. I would like to apologise that the registration was accepted one day early.

I understand that you have requested all contact in writing. I apologise that you were contacted by telephone on 17 January 2014.  When there is a change in care for the child, and a new child support registration is required, telephone contact is the quickest way we are able to provide a service to you.

In your letter you have also requested that the minister consider a reviewing the department's processes and procedures relating to record keeping and customer service.

You have outlined in your letter several instances where you have not received the appropriate level of service. Our records show that you have lodged several complaints with the department about these issues, which were investigated by the department or the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Each of these complaints was reviewed and I see that you were advised of the outcome of the investigation in each case. In particular I note that you have raised the issue of calls asking you to pay outstanding child support, including one at 4.00am.  The department has a duty to collect outstanding child support, and we have now noted that you want all contact from the department to be in writing . As you raise the issue of a call in the early hours of the morning again, I can reiterate our previous advice to you and the Ombudsman that we have no record of any contact with you on the day in question, and that the department does not make calls at the hour you described in your complaint. (So If it wasnt your department doing this who was it? And who did you give my personal details out to? As I certainly did not give those sort of details out to anyone and my mail is well destroyed so that I dont have any bin divers doing exactly that sort of thing. Thats the other thing with your records, the CSA are in charge of them and seem to be very good at loosing and deleting records, I do have to wonder if this is then just covering up for unethical behaviour or covering up of negligence and or corruption within the department)!  I would like to thank-you for bringing your concerns to my attention again. I am satisfied that the department's previous investigations and responses to you have addressed the issues already.

While the department endeavours to provide all customers with a high level of service, it is acknowledged that at times, these standards are not met. The department takes complaints seriously and actively uses feedback from its customers as a valuable tool to improve the service it provides. The department regularly monitors and reports on complaints made by customers and external stakeholders, such as Members of Parliament, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT). This assists the department to identify service delivery issues, provide appropriate feedback, and implement improvements across all areas of the organisation .

We are committed to ensuring you receive the best possible service. In future, if you feel you have not received the appropriate level of service the following process is available to assist you to resolve your issue:

1.   Call us on 131272 and speak to a Customer Service Officer. They'll try to solve the problem or let you know how you can object to a decision we've made .
2.   If you're not satisfied with the response to your complaint, you may ask to speak to the
Customer Service Officer Team Leader.
3.   If you're still not satisfied with the response to your complaint, you can ask to be transferred to our Complaints Service, or call them direct on 132 919 and speak to a Complaints
Officer.

If you are still dissatisfied with the outcome of your complaint, you may contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman on 1300 362 072 who can investigate complaints about the administrative actions of Australian Government departments and agencies.

When you speak to the department's Complaints Service you will be provided with a receipt number, this is your record of the call and can also be provided to the Commonwealth Ombudsman to demonstrate that you contacted the department about your complaint. (Its funny but I dont think you actually read that part in my original letter about the complaints department, lets just say it this way, when I have rung the complaints line, they have screened the complaints and have on occasions told me that you are not allowed to complain about that then refuse to give a receipt number for the call. So is this just another normal practice or is this CSA employees doing as they wish, thus meaning I cannot have my case taken further)?

You may also contact the department online. Online access allows customers to connect with the department at a convenient time. In order activate online access you will need to create a myGov account. To create a myGov account , please refer to my .gov.au or contact the department.

If you would like to discuss any of the matters in this letter please contact Mr Lxxxxxxxxx on
131 272. Your child support reference number is at the top of this letter - please have the number with you when you telephone as it helps us to give you faster service.

Yours sincerely


 

Lorna Andrews National Manager
Quality and Customer Complaints Department of Human Services
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