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CSA COA review underway

An experienced Project Manager has been appointed to flesh out a formal project around the COA process, the 30 page form, the reasons, the issues , what works and what doesn't and to make a wide range of findings into the process.

The Child Support Agency have engaged in establishing a new initiative and project to look at the whole COA (Change Of Assessment ) program and process.

An experienced Project Manager has been appointed to flesh out a formal project around the COA process, the 30 page form, the reasons, the issues , what works and what doesn't and to make a wide range of findings into the process that has been an onerous burden on the part of payers, payees and the CSA support network dealing with these.

The members of the Child Support National Stakeholder Engagement Group (CSNSEG) who have expressed interest in being involved in CSA's work in reviewing the current COA process have been engaged.
Secretary of the SPCA said
We need to get behind this review and come up with positive and innovative suggestions on how to improve this process. The CSA have asked for direction and commentary on how to improve a process that has often handed down disappointing results to very disgruntled parties in the process.

Please provide feedback on the sorts of things that are needed to make improvements to the Change of Assessment (COA) process.  :cool:

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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My view about this is that the COA process should be replaced with multiple processes one for each subsection of a reason for change of assessment. Each with specific requirements that simply have to be evidenced (rubber stamped) meet the requirements then the change is applied and applied in a specific pre-defined way appropriate to the cost/amount. Other than an officer, and that could well be any grade not specifically a senior officer as is I believe is currently required, sighting and manually confirming the document(s) the process would be automated.

I believe this approach would work not only for the less complicated change of assessments but also for highly complex change of assessments. It will take some work in generating these individual processes, it may well require changes to Cuba (the online system used by the CSA).

I believe that such a process would have great benefits for all.

The direct cost of processing change of assessments would be vastly reduced as staffing skill requirements would be reduced and information would be gathered and subsequently processed very much on a need basis, by much simple subject specific forms as opposed to the current method which (perhaps in contradiction of the privacy principles) gathers all possible information (i.e. the 30 {I thought 36} page application form).

It has been reported that staff morale/satisfaction is adversely affected by the current process which due to various reasons, especially the non-transparent/adversarial approach, causes much friction. I think it is quite clear from posts here on FLWG, that parents are also dissatisfied with the current process, it is intrusive, lengthy and adversarial by nature. The new approach would reduce the intrusiveness, the time taken whilst increasing the transparency and reducing adversity.

Currently a great number and perhaps an increasing number of decisions are costing a great deal extra on all parties as the objection process is followed. The proposed approach will breakdown the complexity and confusion into more manageable chunks with more specific and pertinent rules and as such parents would, in many/most situations understand the likely decision beforehand, thus reducing the need for objections.

I believe an analogy can be found with the tax system for individuals. Tax is very complex, far more complex than the change of assessment process, however the tax system has been broken down into very manageable chunks, so manageable that an individual can quite easily use a tax pack or tax packs to attend to this far more highly complex process. I would guess, although perhaps stats could be obtained, that the rate per "customer" of objections to the decisions made by the ATO is far lower than the rate of objections per "customer" going through the far less complex change of assessment process.

I even envisage the possibility of a system equivalent to Etax whereby parents could drive the process and the CSA staff would simply have to to vet/confirm the documents put forward.
I suspect the current COA process is not Privacy ACt compliant because it collects information about personal circumstances of both parties before the relevance is established.  It MUST be a 2 stage process.  1.  Establish the issues for consideration and see if there are any common understandings; and 2.  Only when a need is established request the necessary information.

Widespread community disquiet about CSA process, the SSAT appeal affirmation rates and the Ombusman's commentary about CSA relying overly on COA to examine circumstances need to be raised in any submissions.   
Bigred,
         I think what I propose would adhere to the two stages that you suggest. Basically as I envisage it a person contacts CSA and provides reasons. Forms specific to the sub-reason(s) are issued to the requester, also notification that the process is underway should be sent to the other parent(s)/non-parent carer(s). When each form is returned, if the result is that evidence for the change exists and if information is required from the other parent(s)/non-parent carer(s) then it will then be requested and the sub-reason specific form then sent to the other parent(s)/non-parent carer(s).

With regard to the issues behind this, my understanding is that in general the project officer is aware of and accepting of them. In fact that's the first thing that was brought to the table, and I must admit that I was surprised, that the CSA came along with issues that we hadn't anticipated (e.g. staff dissatisfaction and low morale). The impression that I got was that the CSA understand that there is a problem that needs to be fixed and that they are looking to us for ways to fix them. I was honestly expecting excuses and objection to the idea that I am proposing (it is very much saying in general do away with SCO's and authoritative control {not sure if that's the correct way of saying it}), we had none, instead they listened.
Some of the issues
  • Way to complex, too much information needed and supplied to parties which sometimes results in personal information going to the wrong parties.

  • Too much manual intervention.

  • The security/privacy of that information once supplied.

  • The length of the process.

  • The lack of feedback as to why and how decisions have been made.

  • CSA staff and Customer dissatisfaction at process and outcomes. Often the outcome is way less than the effort that has gone in.
MikeT has suggested that much of the complexity of the process could be removed if the process were replaced by more manageable micro-processes, one at least for each reason for departure although more likely one such process for each subsection of each reason.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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Was in a CSA office today with a friend who found himself in a bit of a pickle.  The CSA officer surprisingly recommended against seeking a COA because of the intrusion and ability to entrench hostility between parties, suggesting the issues could be addressed through the non agency payment process.  Wonder if the culture is changing already?   

so its only about the COA process

Well this is some good news , i realise that no one in these terrible situations will have a fair go.   So this investigatation or such is only about the COA procees ?

Well , I understand that this is very much a concern for both parties invovled, but it is very time consuming .

Also the paying parent has to supply a lot of personal expenditure which lets the other parent know their personal details. With our case we have not recieved any edvidence of expenditure for the paid parent , the SCO took all the relevant information and excepted it over the conference call.  They kept telling my husband he didn't have enough proof where as we had nothing from the paid parent.

The CO was very rude from the start asking to as why I didnt work. With the new laws and there has been many posts here and other sites that now CSA can except household income from their new spouse to excess money for child support.  This is very unfair , especially when the paid parent may have a partner contribuating to the household, 2 incomes coming into household , and the children may be teengaers at the age of obtaining casual work.

All our household receives is 1 income and family money. I have an option from centrelink where I can be at the home for my children at such, until school age or such time.

I am thankful for this as this allows me to go to my children schools to learn help educate my children at home, and as my husbands work takes him away this helps me be avaiable for  my children when ill or what ever the reason.

But the COA made a pesonal agenda at me ( this is our it came across) as in previous COA before the new laws in July 08 we have had at least 2 reducements because of our special needs.   This has been and ongoing and regular concern and they had no worries accepting a reducement at these times, but with these new laws it has become harder .

And now when the children are older and needing more for their knowledge and such and other things we  can not obtain an reducement .

My husband wants to pay cs but not at the amount assessed.

It's doubled with the new assessment . Which means he isn't actaully now supporting our children at all.

Also a concern is the new care percentage , where having the children ( which would be great ) But this is hard when the resident parent has already established themselves into their children's head that the other parent may not care or such.

So with the care pecentage it can not be forced and to go to court is out of the question as with the high cs , you can not afford to.

I dont know if any of this is acceptable and I am sorry if its left the correct topic , but there is so much to say.

It just feels like the whole time during the COA the officer was annoyed that my husband had a 2nd family. He didn't choose to leave his 1st family and didn't want this all to end up the way  it has. We wish all this could be peaceful and resolved but now the cs had doubled the cs ,the ex wont agree like she has done in the past either.

So benefiting the children would be better if both parents were invovled and included . The other  parents out there who aren't contribuating and who the cs can not find or hassel have made it hard for the  paying   parent who would love to have contact but are paying and dont have any involvement .

Last edit: by acep74

Is the new Child Support formula working?

I picked this up off another Blogg, posted by 'Zoe', but it has a flavour of the sort of thing that needs to perhaps be considered. How does the COA system deal with this?
Is the new Child Support formula working? There's certainly no outrage about it, so perhaps it is.

One thing it hasn't accomplished is targeting those who rort the system or the gender bias that has been longstanding. You know the rorters, parents who demonstrate a low income but are asset and lifestyle rich. For example, a mother in a shared parenting situation who is a company director, buying a house, who enjoys regular interstate and overseas holidays, spends money freely on luxuries, expensive clothing and dines out more than the average person can afford to. Yet her taxable income falls below the child support threshold, so pays no child support. The father on the other hand lives hand to mouth, sometimes having to borrow money to pay his bills because his child support expenses take a considerable slice out of his income. Monies that further enhance the lifestyle of the mother.

Take a case like this through the CSA (Added by Sec SPCA 'COA system') and all the mother has to do is claim she is being supported by her new partner to ensure no change in assessment. Reverse the roles and the father would be accused of failing in his financial duty towards his children, most likely investigated and made to cough up cash under the 'capacity to pay' legislation.

Isn't it about time the legislation is changed to look at the combined assets of relationships on both sides of the divide? After all. in family law, company income and combined assets of a couple are considered to be theirs and to be divided accordingly if they separate.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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Secretary_SPCA,
                       the system I've proposed would cater a little towards the "recipient rorts" in taking out what appears to be a distinct bias of individuals to only consider the payer capable of such sins.

I also think their is a great need for there to be a push to insist that recipients are investigated as much if not more than payers. In believe there is plenty of evidence available now that shows such things have been ignored by the CSA and ministers, perhaps because they know that it would contradict the clawback of FTB.  
Mike T "recipient rorts" need to be dealt with in a different forum.  COA is about a departure from assessment because of special circumstances being present.  From my reading it seem departure is being granted on rather "soft" grounds leading to increased levels of disputation where the legislators contemplated ldeparture in rare and unusual circumstances rather than an open slather approach by anyone who fels they might  be unique.  
BigRed, I agree that it's a different issue and meant by what I said for it to be taken as it as a different issue.

From my reading special circumstances is both soft and hard. Soft when there's an increase but hard when a reduction of CS is likely.  e.g. Acep74's special needs of children being knocked back.

I'm also suspicious that the publishing of SSAT decisions and thus the publishing of the decisions behind underlying the COA's and objection, may be part of the reason why this project has come about now.
MikeT, with CSA reading this stuff, have you thought about starting a thread under which people can list their "payee rorts" to maybe inform the CSA bods of the concerns.  Would also inform payers of what they need to watch out for.
We are planning a number of initiatives once the Project gets into full swing. The apathetic approach to this subject is quite concerning actually and so we will advertise the initiative significantly, discuss directly with other smaller groups and attempt to do an on-line survey through a significant mailing list of around 4500 targeted email addressing to try and formulate a full response to the options that may present. At this stage it is early days.

If you need another Topic we can start that or even create a complete Forum under this forum specifically for COA review if you so desire. Getting a list of 'rorts' could be enlightning. That can be done in a few minutes. I am not sure SSAT decisions are the key factor in getting this off the ground (which I might add the SPCA has worked dilegently with FaHCSIA to pressure the SSAT decsions to be published) that has brought about a full COA project.

I believe both Matt Miller and Joe Ludwig have had a view for some time that the COA process needs to be reviewed. Others in the CSA have also expressed such views when I have spoken to regional managers about the COA process. There is a view, that I have heard directly, that there are too many reasons and it is to complex and that decsions are not consistent. We have our views on a wide range of problems with the COA process and are starting to document these in preparation for the workshops that will no doubt follow. The best option to fix the COA process, so far, is to automate teh process to an on line submission process where you either meet teh criteria or not as the case may be and that will determine if a COA will suceed or not. Much more detail required of course but a start.

I think we are seeing a positive process review which is and has been on going in the Agency for some time since the CSNSEG (Child Support National Stakholder Engagement Group) was established and has gathered momentum and these review items are being driven by a pretty dynamic senior management team. I am hoping we can get hold of the new Stategic Plan and Directions when it is complete to take a look at what is on the radar.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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Sec SPCA I must say I disagree with you about CSA being dynamic.  Afraid it is a moribund organisation that is tie to its rules, and it doesnt do it very well.  The Ombudsman has reported that it relies on COA as the point where it actually has a good look at cases.  Problem is the COA process is inconsistent and collects a heap of information that will serve to entrench conflict between parties.  I just yesterday saw a COA case in which the payee has speculated that payer has undisclosed income and has declared income that had not been included in the assessment.  ANy sensible outcome would be that the departure reason could not be identified yet CSA rules say payer's income has to be declared. Payer isn't fussed about supporting his kids at all, but doesn't want to complete the income part of the form on principle - because he is being cast as being dishonest by the system.  CSA has been approached yet their reply is "fill in the form or else".  
Bigred - I am currently doing some work on the COA process and my initial thoughts are that it is very similar to a court process without the fairness of such. I believe some of the COA reasons / decisions do not require such a process or the amount of information they are asking in their forms.
Happydaze i agree with you entirely.  Also seems they could pre filter some of the claims that the deal with before sending them to the unsuspecting other party.
Bigred said
Sec SPCA I must say I disagree with you about CSA being dynamic.
I believe you have taken this out of context. I was saying in relation to initiatives that the CSA have taken , particularly arising out of CSNSEG that "I think we are seeing a positive process review which is and has been on going in the Agency for some time since the CSNSEG (Child Support National Stakholder Engagement Group) was established and has gathered momentum and these review items are being driven by a pretty dynamic senior management team."

I was referring to the Dynamic management team (That we deal with). The likes of Samantha Palmer (Who has moved out of the CSA) and a number of others, one the acting GM who is very dynamic, getting much done. There is very much some keenness and urgency coming from a number of CSA teams working on a number of projects and the COA process is probably the most important project for us at the moment.
Bigred said
Problem is the COA process is inconsistent and collects a heap of information that will serve to entrench conflict between parties.  I just yesterday saw a COA case in which the payee has speculated that payer has undisclosed income and has declared income that had not been included in the assessment.  ANy sensible outcome would be that the departure reason could not be identified yet CSA rules say payer's income has to be declared. Payer isn't fussed about supporting his kids at all, but doesn't want to complete the income part of the form on principle - because he is being cast as being dishonest by the system.  CSA has been approached yet their reply is "fill in the form or else".  
Yes this is exactly the sort of issue that needs to be captured as part of the project. The project is still formulating the scope and detail so it is early days. CSA are capturing items in this Topic relating to COA.

We had been looking to have a meeting next Friday with a  number of SPCA executives (MikeT etc) and or others with the CSA project team but latest communication is as follows…
I know that originally you had spoken to Kylie about possibly meeting with her next Friday afternoon on the COA Review project. I have spoken to Kylie and she has confirmed that she couldn't discuss much more with you than was discussed in your first meeting. Kylie understands that you are keen for other SPCA members to be involved in the Review project over the coming month or so. She will be in touch with you over the next two weeks to set up another meeting on the COA Review.
If you have a particular interest in providing more input I would suggest we arrange to speak to you in a teleconference with myself and MikeT initially and form a small working group to coordinate the issues list around the COA in its entirety. If there is any one else that wants to join a small working party on the project please put your hand up. I would expect we should collate certainly the key issues (We have already supplied an extensive list of issues and ideas to the project team)

The project is still early days yet I believe so there is some time for us to engage others and other groups who would want to have input. FLRA are gearing up to supply inputs to either us or CSA and I have spoke to John Flanagan Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting) about his views. (I need to write those up and publish).

If you know someone going through a COA they are most welcome to write about their experiences here.
 

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 do have a question and perhaps fault in the system that seems to be gender orientated.

It was my belief if a person who pays towards child support alters their annual income by a specific amount that there would be an automatic C.O.A. processed by the C.S.A., I have heard from several dads who have indeed been subject to this.

In my daughter mothers last assessment she reduced her income by nearly 60%, when I ask about this discrepancy I was told I would have to initiate a change of assessment.

This could in all intensive purposes affect orders due to the already bias family court system. Lets face it if you upset the mother who knows what could happen.

I have decided not to push the issue at this time but would like to put forward the bias of this not being addressed by C.O.A. automatically by the C.S.A. as would be done to the majority of fathers.

   
If you are a resident of Norfolk Island, then it is Court system all the way. The changes that is available to everyone under the Commonwealth of Australia does not extend to this tiny isle and if you want to have your child support payments more in line with the rest of the country - you have to get through mediation, apply (try and pass the Rice & Asplund) through the court system again, have a hearing that you have to pay thousands of dollars for in airfares, accommodation and legal expenses, so the law that governs all Australians can be applied to you.

Unfortunately, the law applies to Norfolk Island, but apparently the Child Support Agency doesn't. Therefore, if you have a court ordered child support amount awarded under the old laws, then you have to go through the whole expensive legal process for a judge to personally apply the new rules to you.

This is truly unfair and crippling to a minority that is already hard done by, through distance and other serious lack and deficiencies in legal access.

Moot
SecSPCA, still disagree with you re 'dynamic'.  One can appear to be 'dynamic' without actually achieving a thing.  Canberra is full of perception managers who have clawed their ways to the top on the strength of their spin leaving the achievers in their wake.  When I see some change in how people are treated on the ground I will believe it.

We need to be careful that CSA aren't actually proposing something here that is actually a cost cutting measure as opposed to improving the outcomes.   Anyway, am happy to play in the phone hookup.

D4E, that has been my observation as well.
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