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Some experience with the CSA

Here are some things I have found out about the CSA......

  1. Everytime you talk to someone in the CSA they take notes.
  2. Sometimes those notes do not necessarily reflect accurately what transpired during the conversation and in fact can be the opposite of what you told them. Always ask them to read the notes back to you. Sometimes they will refuse.
  3. The payee does not have a case worker despite sometimes being told so. The case worker is assigned to the Payer.
  4. There is distinct gender bias within the ranks of the CSA.
  5. Objecting to a decision the CSA has made to the SSAT will result in you and the other party being sent a copy of your file which bypasses the FOI hassles and cost. Sometimes the file has information ommitted (possibly deliberately) that supports your case. You need to check that iti is complete.
  6. The CSA do not necessarily apply the law.
  7. Making a complaint online about specific CSA personnel will have them scrambling like ants. They don't like this and will do everything possible in order for you to withdraw the complaint. They will even lie and blame you for the problem. Be prepared to stand up for yourself.
  8. The people conducting the CSA Change of Assessments do not necessarily work for the CSA but are contractors who are supposed to make an impartial decision.
  9. The CSA do not advise you of your rights. It is up to you to read the CS Act to see what applies to you and have it carried out by the CSA or the courts.
  10. Make sure you keep diary notes of all contact with the CSA and to ask the persons name that you are speaking to. They don't like to give surnames.
Aphrodite said
Sometimes those notes do not necessarily reflect accurately what transpired during the conversation and in fact can be the opposite of what you told them. Always ask them to read the notes back to you. Sometimes they will refuse.

You are entitled to the notes and if you ask they should send them to you, if they say they can't, they ask the operative to speak to their supervisor, if still they say they can't then ask them to speak to the Freedom of Information Officer, as the notes are not covered by Freedom of Information as they are about a communication between the two of you.
Silly question but what is the Caseworker supposed to do? 
Sorry I can't read at time.  :$ So I've deleted what I wrote (couldn't delete the post). Mods please delete this.
Lifeinsight, yeh but I was only re-iterating what you said.  :$
I am new here and also new to the world according to CSA.  However, I know a lot about what constitutes good public administration and administrative law.  My initial thoughts on the CSA is that they operate in "stovepipes" and no one is allowed outside their compartment.  For example, the case officer does an assessment based on ATO income but will not listen to any discussion about why income used is wrong and will proceed to issuing an assessment, which is the subject to the change of assessment process or the objection process.  

I reckon they could save a lot of grief if they tok a holistic approach.

Also noticed that they have not published comprehensive policy guidelines which means their staff are either "flying blind" or have internal operating instructions to follow.  For example, try to research "savings provisions" in their published guidelines.
But you can still enforce legislation taking a holistic approach.  The whole idea that they can issue an assesment that is wrong and start collection while relying on the objection process (60 day turnaround standard) or the change of assessemnt process (80 day turnaround) is an anathema.  

Some ANU researchers recently commented about how poor regulation leads to game playing by the regulatee.  The CSA processes invite such game playing.
What if more payers, or those who understand the bias against payers, were employed by the CSA? Wouldn't this perhaps start to even things out a little?
Good point, but perhaps a tad unrealistic.  CSA jobs are not the most highly sought after and they are generally lowly classified.  I understand Centrelink's customer facing staff are paid at a higher level than CSA.

What is needed is for midle management to actually study the outcomes they are achieving and initiate some internal reforms.  
Bigred, why unrealistic?

In fact I've done a little toward this, I made suggestions and now there is at least one staff member who's sympathetic.

That person even got team recognition, just the other week for chasing up a payees earnings and reducing the payers CS.

If I were looking for work I'd consider the CSA.

With regard to the jobs not being highly sought after; the person above, was one of 400 going for 17 jobs, half of them were graduates. There are far worse jobs out there.

Who's to say that the person above will not become middle management and may even introduce studying the outcomes?

How would you get middle management to study the outcomes?
MikeT - I think the concepts you seem to believe CSA staff are able to operate on are related to fairness, equity, common sense, etc.

These are foreign concepts in CSA and in some courts - its all about the law.

Fundamentally law makers put in these people and systems and think commonsense and fairness will prevail - somehow justice will emerge?

In reality all of these people lack the experience, th context and other abilities to act 'fairly'. Besides they are essentially all RISK AVERSE - why do an excellent fair job when you can aspire to the lowest common demoninator of pedantic mindless law - and blame the lawmakers while you do it.

It has always been thus.

The real problem is that lawmakers inflict these systems on us to interfere in out lives - somehow thinking a good law will 'solve' the problem.

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
But Mike T, one person does not provide systemic change.  I am sure Immigration was full of good people yet they were deporting Australians.  It took the Palmer and Comrie reports to turn the spotlight onto that maladministration.

Thinking about this some more, perhaps some pressure by the Audit office and Ombudsman may help if pointed in the right direction.
Bigred said
I am new here and also new to the world according to CSA.
Welcome and I hope you get some interesting material from the Portal. There are thousands of documents, posts and topics, news and publications around the site with many new features in development
Bigred said
….My initial thoughts on the CSA is that they operate in "stovepipes" and no one is allowed outside their compartment.  For example, the case officer does an assessment based on ATO income but will not listen to any discussion about why income used is wrong and will proceed to issuing an assessment, which is the subject to the change of assessment process or the objection process.
The ATO tax return is the primary means of income. The Federal Government have (after the budget) deemed that previously exempted certain salary sacrifice schemes and ancillary "below the line" incomes are now required to be added back for purposes of Child Support income and Center link benefits calculations (but not for ATO deductibility) Is this fair? Unfair? My own view is that it was a long time coming and the subject of many comments at various CSA seminars. It is fair that both payer and payee have the same rules and the same protected amount. Things have substantially changed and somewhere there has to be a definitive income source and it is currently the ATO taxation return. How can you take any "Holistic approach" which might be subject to personal officer interpretation.

If the payer or payee are not happy there is a system for objection. Would you prefer a Holistic approach where one officer determined a different income to another, because they were having a better day?
Bigred said
Also noticed that they have not published comprehensive policy guidelines which means their staff are either "flying blind" or have internal operating instructions to follow.  For example, try to research "savings provisions" in their published guidelines.
Can you elaborate on the specific query in relation to "savings provisions". I am wondering what the context is. You can put many sort of words in a search engine and get no replies if the meta data is not there. A little more help around what you are looking for may enable us to direct you to our FAQ's. If we don't have an answer it sounds like we need one as an FAQ and get the answer and update our own databases. If it is of interest to you it will be to others.

Thanks for your posts.

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
 
By "holistic" I mean exactly that.  A proper examination of the money each party has control over, including salary sacrifice arrangements, before sending the, what I call, the notional assessment.  The current process just invites conflict, contempt and "game playing".

With respect to the Budget changes they are but lip service because they do not include non FBT amounts (assuming I read correctly).  For example, consider the case of a payer contributing to a defined benefit superannuation scheme (ie after tax contributions) while the payee contributes to a different scheme through pre tax dollars.  Oooops I re read the Budget info and salary sacrifice super will be added back post 2009.

By "savings provisions" or "grandfathering provisions" I mean what beneficial aspects of previous versions of the the legislation have been preserved for people who had previous arrangements in force?   These should be made clear in the CSA Guide, not left to interested people to interpret.

Further, I have now noted that the CSA has previously been outed by the Ombudsman for incorrectly interpreting court decisions, yet it guide still does not provide any real guidance on this issue as far as I can tell.

Last edit: by Bigred

Aphrodite said
  • The payee does not have a case worker despite sometimes being told so. The case worker is assigned to the Payer.
My understanding is that a case worker handles the "CASE" not one or other of the parties specifically. Both parties speak to a case officer.
Aphrodite said
  • There is distinct gender bias within the ranks of the CSA.
I can "say" that the Federal Government has a gender bias and can even support that, pointing you to the department of women and no department of men. Does that make the Federal Government gender biased? You say there is a distinct "gender bias" in the ranks of CSA. How do you deal with that? Have you made any complaints? Is there any specific instance you would like us to take to Canberra. You do not need to give that information here, you can provide that in the issues register which you get to from the home page. If there is a genuine belief this is the case and there is any substance we need to look into this. Certainly a whisper function is provided so you can start a personal topic on this subject with me and we can advance your issues.

On of the real problems we have is getting accurate and proper information so we can take these important issues up. If we want to effect any changes we need to provide proper,timely and accurate detail. I can assure you nothing will happen without that approach.
Aphrodite said
  • The CSA do not necessarily apply the law.
There are a range of appeal processes available from the first Objection, SSAT, AAT and the Federal magistrates Court. You can always publish a tricky legal question and we will do our darndest to get you an accurate answer.
Aphrodite said
  • The CSA do not advise you of your rights. It is up to you to read the CS Act to see what applies to you and have it carried out by the CSA or the courts.
Isn't that the case pretty well with any Government, Federal or State, department. When you ring the Department of Housing for housing and rental assistance you don't get a long speal of your tennacy rights… I am not sure what you would like CSA to do with this question. One of the problems with our current society and I think Jon Pearson has mentioned this before, is that we are getting more and more "Government" legislation and interferance in our personal lives in every area. There is more and more demand for socially funded services. How much legsilative material can we deliver before we get to the point of being legsilated out of existance? Are we delivering so much legsilation for every aspect of our daily lives that sooner or later we will all need legal degrees to do anything.

Notwithstanding that short rant about the legsialtive world we are creating…What rights do you want CSA to advise you of? Should there be an entry message in the call center telephone system advising you of particular "rights" what rights would you suggest? I was aware teh CSA had developed a "Creed" and "Charter" for officers and public facing material along thes elines. Is this the sort of thing you are thinking of? What does the General Manager of teh CSA have to say. You can see his speech in the Child support forums here on the site.

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
 
Bigred said
By "holistic" I mean exactly that.  A proper examination of the money each party has control over, including salary sacrifice arrangements, before sending the, what I call, the notional assessment….
I see your point but doesn't the current process allow that through the CSA Change of Assesmnent process allow for that very view where one party disagrees with the determined income.
Bigred said
With respect to the Budget changes they are but lip service because they do not include non FBT amounts (assuming I read correctly).  For example, consider the case of a payer contributing to a defined benefit superannuation scheme (ie after tax contributions) while the payee contributes to a different scheme through pre tax dollars.
[That is not our understanding and I stand to be corrected. My belief currently is all pretax dollar contributions that are deducated for purposes of ATO returns or are not on the "Pay slip" (previously not taken up in the gross and therefore tax deductability) are now to be taken up as income (For Centerlink benificiary and CSA accountability). The same way that interest deductions on share and property deductability are added back.
Bigred said
By "savings provisions" or "grandfathering provisions" I mean what beneficial aspects of previous versions of the the legislation have been preserved for people who had previous arrangements in force?   These should be made clear in the CSA Guide, not left to interested people to interpret.
my understanding is that as all cases come up for review the legsilative chnages will be effected on those cases.
Bigred said
…I have now noted that the CSA has previously been outed by the Ombudsman for incorrectly interpreting court decisions, yet it guide still does not provide any real guidance on this issue as far as I can tell.
Not sure exactly what you mean by "outed" but a perfect site here for you to provide such legislative interpretations that we can publish and review. Have you seen (found) the library upload facility here on the site?

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
 
but the COA process has an 80 day turnaround.  That is ludicrous because when such issues are pointed out in the first telephone call.  If one then raises the very same issues in an objection, it seems they will be subject to a 60 day turnaround if I have got the process figured.  Would it not be better to delay assessment in some cases until a propoer assessment could be made? Perhaps make an interim order for say 50% of the assessed amount?

Re cases for review, I suggest the situation is not clear cut and there is some creative decision making going on.  I for one think the criteria for review should be clearly published well in adavance.

Re the Ombudsman I noticed the observation in a past annual report.  

By the way, thanks for the warm welcome.
The answer to all woes is from the Callinan J in Luton case

The answers to the questions by which the matter should be tested, do, on balance, well favour the conclusion that the scheme does not involve an exercise of judicial power. Three matters taken together are, in my opinion however, especially important and ultimately decisive here. The first is the availability of resort to a court of competent jurisdiction to challenge the relevant decisions of the Registrar. That the challenge is by way of appeal, and an appeal allowing a hearing de novo, and not simply by way of review under, for example the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth) is very relevant.

Secretary SPCA said
Reversal of Decisions

The High Court has held that a decision maker who makes a sufficiently serious error can in effect 'remake' the decision in order to fulfil their statutory function. The judgment also contains interesting comments about the nature
of administrative decisions and the description of erroneous administrative decisions as 'void' or 'voidable'.

The Immigration Review Tribunal made a 'decision' affirming the cancellation of the respondent's visa. However, through an administrative oversight, the Tribunal did not give the respondent an opportunity to attend a hearing to present evidence and argument before doing so. The Tribunal later conducted a further hearing and made a fresh decision. A majority of the High Court (Gleeson CJ, Gaudron, McHugh, Gummow, Hayne and Callinan JJ, Kirby J dissenting) held that the Tribunal was able to do this.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs v Bhardwaj
High Court of Australia, 14 March 2002
[2002] HCA 11; (2002) 187 ALR 117
Site Admin said
If Guest wished to assist effectively, the Guest might well have found the relevant information judgement and or posted the judgement up to the library using the upload facility (see Community and spinning disk). Guest will also have many more Guest posts validated if Guest left off the continual abusive comments in relation to political parties

Last edit: by OneRingRules

Secretary SPCA said
Aphrodite said
  • The payee does not have a case worker despite sometimes being told so. The case worker is assigned to the Payer.
My understanding is that a case worker handles the "CASE" not one or other of the parties specifically. Both parties speak to a case officer.
Aphrodite said
  • There is distinct gender bias within the ranks of the CSA.
I can "say" that the Federal Government has a gender bias and can even support that, pointing you to the department of women and no department of men. Does that make the Federal Government gender biased? You say there is a distinct "gender bias" in the ranks of CSA. How do you deal with that? Have you made any complaints? Is there any specific instance you would like us to take to Canberra. You do not need to give that information here, you can provide that in the issues register which you get to from the home page. If there is a genuine belief this is the case and there is any substance we need to look into this. Certainly a whisper function is provided so you can start a personal topic on this subject with me and we can advance your issues.

On of the real problems we have is getting accurate and proper information so we can take these important issues up. If we want to effect any changes we need to provide proper,timely and accurate detail. I can assure you nothing will happen without that approach.
Aphrodite said
  • The CSA do not necessarily apply the law.
There are a range of appeal processes available from the first Objection, SSAT, AAT and the Federal magistrates Court. You can always publish a tricky legal question and we will do our darndest to get you an accurate answer.
Aphrodite said
  • The CSA do not advise you of your rights. It is up to you to read the CS Act to see what applies to you and have it carried out by the CSA or the courts.
Isn't that the case pretty well with any Government, Federal or State, department. When you ring the Department of Housing for housing and rental assistance you don't get a long speal of your tennacy rights… I am not sure what you would like CSA to do with this question. One of the problems with our current society and I think Jon Pearson has mentioned this before, is that we are getting more and more "Government" legislation and interferance in our personal lives in every area. There is more and more demand for socially funded services. How much legsilative material can we deliver before we get to the point of being legsilated out of existance? Are we delivering so much legsilation for every aspect of our daily lives that sooner or later we will all need legal degrees to do anything.

Notwithstanding that short rant about the legsialtive world we are creating…What rights do you want CSA to advise you of? Should there be an entry message in the call center telephone system advising you of particular "rights" what rights would you suggest? I was aware teh CSA had developed a "Creed" and "Charter" for officers and public facing material along thes elines. Is this the sort of thing you are thinking of? What does the General Manager of teh CSA have to say. You can see his speech in the Child support forums here on the site.
The CSA allocate a caseworker to the Payer only although a Payee can apply to have a case worker allocated. As a Payee, you get who you get when you call with an enquiry. Sometimes you might be lucky enough to talk to the caseworker.

The gender bias in the CSA is distinct in that it does tend to deal with issues that do entail a generalised gender view. ie that most typically the Payee's are the women and the Payer's are the men. I think the CSA should be above the societal view and deal with specific issues as they occur.

I am very familiar with the processes available to me and have successfully fought an objection through the SSAT overturning a CSA decision. Thanks for the offer anyway.

The CSA do not advise you of your rights even in answer to a specific question. In my experience they are mostly intent on lessening the work load and getting as many people as possible on private collect. I do expect them to have a full page of the legislation in laymans terms available on their front page, but I do expect that they respond by advising the correct legislation in answer to a query.

Thanks for your interest and if I can be of help to you let me know.

Last edit: by OneRingRules

"The CSA allocate a caseworker to the Payer only although a Payee can apply to have a case worker allocated. As a Payee, you get who you get when you call with an enquiry. Sometimes you might be lucky enough to talk to the caseworker."

This is not true. I am a payee and have a caseworker on "our" file. I can contact "Phil" at anytime, as can my ex. If he is not in the office, I can leave a message for him to call me back. Or, I can elect to speak to whoever picks up the phone - my choice. Regardless, everything goes on "the file".

Private collect, like consent orders, is always preferred - because, if both parties have agreed to them, the theory is that both parties are likely to abide by them.

I think the system falls down because of the high staff churn rate and lack of training for new staff.

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