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Child Support and Abuse by CSA staff

Hi forum users,

I'm new to this but I see that I'm not the only one suffering at the hands of the Child Support Agency.

My problems with the CSA really took off about 12months ago. In October 2010 a CSA representative called me while I was working.

I told her I was not in a position to speak as I was almost finished a lunch break. This didn't seem to matter. I was accused of being irresponsible because I changed jobs and got to earn a little more money each year. I have a mortgage that I didn't have when I was married to the ex. This information means nothing to CSA as they say Child Support payments come before mortgage payments. I didn't receive a satisfactory answer to the question, "How can I support my children if I can't provide a roof over my head for when they come to me?" I was encouraged by a local CSA staff member to submit a Change of Assessment. After 7-8 months nothing has been resolved and now the debt is higher than ever before.

CSAonline has proven to be useless. I have had letters disallowing my COA and my objection to the outcome submitted online but not receive email notification. I don't have CSAonline as my homepage. (Perhaps I'm supposed to) You have 28 days to make application to SSAT but that time has elapsed shortly after being notified of the decision. Seems a great way to cut down on work for the complaint's department.

The CSA logo or theme is "Supporting Separated Families". What planet do you need to be on forthis occurr?

The emotional and financial abuse I have suffered at the hands of the CSA and reading of very similar situations that many other people find themselves in, makes me consider the question of a "class action". It seemed to work for victims of James Hardie. Could it work for victims of the CSA? Collectively I think we have a very good case. How can we get this information collected, and ordered to have a significant effect on [sic]releaving (relieving) the stresses that CSA inflict on separated families?

Are there any good law firms who operate on"no win no fee" basis interested in taking this on? It seems to me that something very significant needs to happen before there is an end to this constant abuse, both financially and emotionally, by CSA staff.

Any suggestions?
Unfortunately, the actions of the CSA under Part 6A are specifically exempted from Judicial Review:

 
ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS (JUDICIAL REVIEW) ACT 1977 SCHEDULE 1 said
Classes of decisions that are not decisions to which this Act applies
Section 3
(s) determinations made by the  Child Support  Registrar under Part 6A of the  Child Support  (Assessment) Act 1989 ;
  http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/adra1977396/sch1.html

Imagine if the decisions made under Part 6A were subject to ADJR Section 5:

 
ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS (JUDICIAL REVIEW) ACT 1977 SECTION 5 said
Applications for review of decisions

           
  (1)  A person who is aggrieved by a decision to which this Act applies that is made after the commencement of this Act may apply to the Federal Court or the Federal Magistrates Court for an order of review in respect of the decision on any one or more of the following grounds:

                     (a)  that a breach of the rules of natural justice occurred in connection with the making of the decision;

                     (b)  that procedures that were required by law to be observed in connection with the making of the decision were not observed;

                       that the person who purported to make the decision did not have jurisdiction to make the decision;

                     (d)  that the decision was not authorized by the enactment in pursuance of which it was purported to be made;

                     (e)  that the making of the decision was an improper exercise of the power conferred by the enactment in pursuance of which it was purported to be made;

                      (f)  that the decision involved an error of law, whether or not the error appears on the record of the decision;

                     (g)  that the decision was induced or affected by fraud;

                     (h)  that there was no evidence or other material to justify the making of the decision;

                      (j)  that the decision was otherwise contrary to law.

             (2)  The reference in paragraph (1)(e) to an improper exercise of a power shall be construed as including a reference to:

                     (a)  taking an irrelevant consideration into account in the exercise of a power;

                     (b)  failing to take a relevant consideration into account in the exercise of a power;

                       an exercise of a power for a purpose other than a purpose for which the power is conferred;

                     (d)  an exercise of a discretionary power in bad faith;

                     (e)  an exercise of a personal discretionary power at the direction or behest of another person;

                      (f)  an exercise of a discretionary power in accordance with a rule or policy without regard to the merits of the particular case;

                     (g)  an exercise of a power that is so unreasonable that no reasonable person could have so exercised the power;

                     (h)  an exercise of a power in such a way that the result of the exercise of the power is uncertain; and

                      (j)  any other exercise of a power in a way that constitutes abuse of the power.

             (3)  The ground specified in paragraph (1)(h) shall not be taken to be made out unless:

                     (a)  the person who made the decision was required by law to reach that decision only if a particular matter was established, and there was no evidence or other material (including facts of which he or she was entitled to take notice) from which he or she could reasonably be satisfied that the matter was established; or

                     (b)  the person who made the decision based the decision on the existence of a particular fact, and that fact did not exist.
  http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/adra1977396/s5.html
Why can't the law be changed to make some of these people accountable for their decision, particularly where emotional and financial stresses are causing great hardship in an otherwise normal and successful household.
What training and qualifications do the CSA staff have to make theses decisions? Am i allowed to ask them for these details prior to them making their decision and asking for another officer if they are not qualified?
edge said
What training and qualifications do the CSA staff have to make theses decisions? Am i allowed to ask them for these details prior to them making their decision and asking for another officer if they are not qualified?

 

The same as any public servant in a similar department, zilch… I work in a government organisation that supplies housing and also shelter to the homeless in emergencies. We can make decisions off gut feelings, stroll off in any direction once a grey area arises and also know there is little backlash or responsibility for actions that can cost the department or applicant in any way including emotional.. I try to ba fair and just in any situation, but there are operators that find pleasure in declining people their true entitlements knowing there is no recourse..
So if they are having a bad day it can cost me!
This is something that needs addressing.
Also Why do they alternate case workers so often?  I'm sick and tired of getting a case worker onside and understanding only for them to get moved on.
What happens is someone makes a complaint against the officer under the APS Code of Conduct?
smurfergirl said
What happens is someone makes a complaint against the officer under the APS Code of Conduct?

 
In my experience, nothing at all. I was threatened by one officer with her making a false entry in the register to the effect that I had refused to pay if I did not "cooperate". she did in fact make that false entry and that was acknowledged by the CSA when I showed them a stream of correspondence I had sent to the ex trying to get her to accept an arrangement. there were 19 letters over 2 years, all unanswered by the ex. at the same time she'd applied twice for a COA.

What the officer did is an offence under the Criminal Code

"474.17 Using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence




             (1)  A person is guilty of an offence if:



               (a)the person uses a carriage service; and




               (b)the person does so in a way (whether by the method of use or the content of a communication, or both) that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.



Penalty:   Imprisonment for 3 years.  "




I wrote the CSA a letter outlining what had happened and asking for an investigation. Nothing happened. I received no response. Some six months later I sent them a letter informing them that I was considering legal action on the matter. That got some action, including an apology and an offer to negotiate compensation. I haven't bothered to do so, because my main aim was to stop this pernicious misuse of power.




If anybody is still being harassed in this sort of manner I'd be very interested to hear of it. I suspect there is a large class of people who have been coerced by the CSA in clear beach of the law. It would be interesting to see if such a class could be constructed. If nothing else it would demonstrate the CSA has a problem with adequately training staff in appropriate methods for dealing with the public.
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