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SSAT releases 2007 annual report

Annual Report of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal for the year ending 30 June 2007, as required under clause 25 of Schedule 3 to the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999.

The major event for the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) in 2006-07 was an expansion in the SSAT's jurisdiction. From 1 January 2007, the SSAT's review powers included the power to review most decisions of the Child Support Agency (CSA).

In the first six months of the new jurisdiction, the Tribunal received 704 child support applications. (See post that outlines some more recent statistics)

In the latter half of 2006 and continuing into 2007, the SSAT's Child Support Steering Committee oversaw the completion of six national projects to prepare the Tribunal for the expanded jurisdiction.

As part of these projects, the SSAT negotiated new accommodation leases for three offices, the Queensland, Victorian and National Office and arranged the refurbishment of the temaining offices to ensure that it has appropriate and sufficient accommodation to review both social security and child support appeals.

In preparation for the expanded jurisdiction, the SSAT also conducted member recruitment exercises which resulted in a 25% increase in member numbers from 2005-06.

The SSAT also reviewed its APS staffing structure and requirements, determining that a number of additional staff would be required to manage the child support jurisdiction.

Tribunal merits review of CSA decisions was not available in Australia before 1 January 2007 and it was very difficult for the SSAT to anticipate the effect the new jurisdiction would have on its operations. After six months experience it is still too early to say how the Tribunal will perform in the longer term in dealing with child support cases, especially in light of major changes to the child support system on 1 July 2008. Our early experience indicates that many of these cases are difficult because of the often underlying tension(s) between the parties and the sensitivities in relation to the sharing of responsibility and costs for raising children.

The Tribunal's early experience is that these appeal cases also take substantially longer than social security cases to hear; the set up of the hearing room needs to be modified; and the attendance of two, and possibly more, parties requires significantly more management by both SSAT staff and members.

More details of the new child support jurisdiction are contained in Part 2 of this Report.

SSAT Annual report 2006-2007

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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