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please help....exemption from CSA for centerlink payment

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hello all,

newbie here. Could i please ask for some advice? Please be gentle with me.

My daughter was born in the uk to a married man, who is still married. His family don't know about my daughter and god forbid if they found out. He has verbally threatened to harm me and my daughter, if they ever did. He is a different culture to me. Also, if they did find out, that would mean he would definatley refuse to have anything to do with her in the future when she is older, should she choose to acknowledge him.

Anyway, we moved to Australia recently and when we applied to centerlink they said that i needed to apply for an exception from CSA in oder to be eligable for full benefits from them.

I have an interview next month with a social worker to talk about my situation and an exemption. What is the likelyhood that they will listen and take on board my situation? Or don't i have a leg to stand on?

your help is much appreciated.
I believe the exemption is only allowed where the very act of claiming CS is likely to cause serious danger to you and/or the child. With him so far away, possibly they will discount any threats, he has made (maybe even if you can prove them). I did hear they were tightening up the process because for a while there a lot of mothers were seen to be making up claims of violence so they could collect full benefits without claiming CS from the father.
This is what the CSA guide has to say :-


The CSA Guide - 6.10.1 Family violence said
6.10.1: Family violence

Version 2.1, Last updated 10 October 2008 5:00pm
Information in this version of The Guide applies from 1 July 2008
Refer to the previous Scheme Guide for information until 30 June 2008

Context

CSA operates in a sensitive environment and must avoid, as far as possible, actions which could contribute to family violence.

Legislative references

Section 150 and 151 Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989

Section 16, 38 and 38B Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988

Section 4 Family Law Act 1975

Definition of family violence

Family violence, as defined in the Family Law Act, means conduct, whether actual or threatened, by a person towards, or towards the property of, a member of the persons family that causes that person or any other member of the persons family, to reasonably fear for, or reasonably to be apprehensive about, his or her personal wellbeing or safety (section 4 Family Law Act).

Family violence and Centrelink customers

A parent who receives more than the minimum rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A for a child may be required to take reasonable action to obtain maintenance from their former partner for that child. This would usually mean applying for a child support assessment. However, a person can seek an exemption from this requirement where there is a risk of family violence.

Centrelink provides social work services for parents who are experiencing violent family situations. Centrelink social workers provide short-term counselling and support. They can also arrange referrals to community services to meet the immediate and longer term needs of parents in matters such as accommodation, legal and family counselling, health, material assistance and training.

Identification of parents at risk

Centrelink staff may identify parents at risk of family violence. If this occurs before a parent applies for a child support assessment, Centrelink may grant an exemption and the parent will not contact CSA at all. CSA may receive a letter of exemption from a Centrelink social worker for a case where the payee has already applied for a child support assessment.

CSA staff are sometimes the first point of contact for people who are at risk of family violence. The parent may openly state that they believe that they are at risk of family violence, or they may only imply that there is a risk.

Other organisations and third parties may contact CSA about customers who are at risk of family violence as a result of taking action to obtain child support. CSA will not ignore any information it receives about threatened violence, no matter where that information comes from. CSA must confirm the information before acting on it. It will do this by consulting with the parent identified as being at risk by the informant.

Although a person may be subject to, or at risk of, violence they may not perceive this to be the situation. It is necessary to be alert to a persons perception of their situation. Where the parent does not perceive a risk of violence it will usually be difficult for CSA to detect there is in fact a risk.

Management of cases


Where CSA identifies a parent as being at risk of family violence and the circumstances of the situation warrant increased security for the parent, the parents case will be referred to an authorised Restricted Access Case (RAC) officer. In these circumstances access to computer and paper file records of these parents will be in accordance with agency guidelines concerning restricted access customers. See Chapter 6.3.7 for more information.

CSA will have a nominated officer in each State to assist staff with the management of cases identified as being at risk.

Referrals

CSA staff will not have the expertise to deal with many of the matters associated with family violence. Nor are they expected to have this expertise. However, CSA must be able to advise parents who are at risk of family violence where they can get help.

CSA maintains a directory of organisations that offer this kind of specialised help. Such organisations include welfare agencies, Legal Aid and Community Legal Centres and local support groups. They also include those organisations that represent the interests of people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Information about community groups in each locality is available on CSAs website in the Community Services Directory.

Options for parents

Where a parent is identified as being at risk CSA should discuss available options with the parent. This could include details and consequences of:

    * Proceeding with an application for child support
    * Continuing collection
    * Private collection
    * Ending the child support assessment
    * Reviewing an exemption

Wherever possible, the parent must make their own decision about whether and how to pursue collection of child support and CSA will support the parents decision in relation to their case.

CSA recognises that a parent at risk may adopt one course of action for a period of time and may later adopt another course if the situation has changed. CSA will provide parents with all options and encourage them to contact CSA to discuss their case if their situation changes.

Proceeding with an application

During the initial discussion with a parent regarding their application for child support a CSA officer may become aware that the applicant may be at risk. The applicant should be advised that continuing with the application means that CSA will need to contact the other parent. If the applicant has concerns about that contact they can withdraw the application and apply to Centrelink for an exemption from applying for child support, if necessary. The parent should be advised to reapply for child support if an exemption is not granted.

Continuing collection

A payee may decide that they wish the assessment to continue and for the amounts payable to be collected by CSA.

In such cases, CSA will take particular care to manage the case in a sensitive and appropriate manner. Strategies to reduce the likelihood of violent behaviour and provide safety for the parent and the children should be adopted in consultation with the payee e.g. advising the payee before CSA commences enforcement action and before CSA contacts the payer to discuss liabilities and collection action. CSA may also refer the payee to other organisations for support.

Private collection

A payee can decide to collect child support from the other party privately rather than have CSA collect it for them (section 38 Registration and Collection Act). CSA will explain that it will still make and amend child support assessments, and send letters to each parent about their child support assessments. Both parents will still have access to the administrative provisions of the scheme (including change of assessment and objections).

Where a payee receives more than the minimum rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A, CSA will advise them that Centrelink will calculate their entitlement to benefits as if they receive the full amount of child support from the payer.

Where the payee undertakes private collection, CSA will manage the case in a sensitive and appropriate manner. Strategies to reduce the likelihood of violent behaviour and provide safety for the parent and the children should be adopted in consultation with the payee. CSA may also refer the payee to other organisations for support.

CSA can decide that payments will no longer be collected by CSA in certain circumstances (section 38B Registration and Collection Act). However, CSA will not require payees at risk of domestic violence to start collecting their own child support privately. See Chapter 5.6.2 for more information.

Ending a child support assessment due to family violence

A payee who does not receive more than the minimum rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A can elect to end their child support assessment. CSA will end the case and advise the payee they can reapply for a child support assessment at any time in the future (section 151 Assessment Act).

Generally Centrelink will not approve elections to end a case where the payee receives more than the minimum rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A. However, if a payee who receives more than the minimum rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A is considered to be at risk of family violence, CSA will suggest they contact a Centrelink social worker for a risk assessment. CSA cannot accept the payees election to end the assessment unless Centrelink approves it (sections 151(4) and 151A Assessment Act). If the Centrelink social worker grants the payee an exemption, they will immediately advise CSA in writing. CSA cannot end the assessment without receiving an election from the payee. If the payee has not already made an election to end their assessment, CSA will contact the payee and invite them to make one. (See Chapter 2.10.2 Electing to end an assessment)

When CSA accepts a payees election to end a child support assessment due to the threat of family violence, it will record details of why the case was ended on the customers case records.

Reviewing an exemption

Centrelink will review each case where it has granted a payee an exemption from taking maintenance action. The purpose of the review is to see whether the parents circumstances have changed and, if so, whether the exemption is still appropriate.

If the social worker finds that the parent is no longer at risk from violence or that it is no longer appropriate for the payee to be exempt from taking reasonable maintenance action, the parent will be required to apply to CSA for an assessment. Some parents may not have had a previous child support case and others may have ended the case under section 151 of the Assessment Act.

Where a payee applies for a child support assessment after previously having been granted an exemption, CSA will exercise the utmost care and sensitivity. A RACs officer will implement strategies for managing the case to ensure that CSAs actions do not contribute to possible family violence.

Reporting threats of family violence

CSA will make a record of any conversation with a person threatening violence and any conversation with the person who is the subject of a threat. The record may be required as evidence in court proceedings.

Where a person makes a threat against another person, the matter should be referred to a senior officer (team leader or site manager) who should ensure that the incident is reported and consider whether the matter should be reported to the police.

The secrecy provisions in the Child Support legislation allow CSA to disclose the threat to the person being threatened and to ask them whether they want CSA to report the incident (section 16 Registration and Collection Act and section 150 Assessment Act). The disclosure is for the purposes of the Child Support legislation because CSA must disclose the threat in order to talk to the payee about appropriate future collection activities.

CSA will usually consult with the threatened person before deciding to report a threat of violence to the police, but this is not a requirement (section 16(3)(e) Registration and Collection Act and section 150(3)(e) Assessment Act). Where there is an immediate or urgent need to prevent an offence, CSA will report a threat to the police without prior consultation with the threatened person. There may also be occasions where the officer handling the matter will report a threat to the police against the wishes of the threatened person because they believe the threat to that persons safety is so serious.
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