The Child Support Agency (CSA) has created a special response team to assist and support separated parents affected by Victorian bushfires.
The CSA is encouraging customers who have been affected to make contact with them, as soon as possible, so they can assist to manage their child support. The CSA understands the sensitivities of this situation, and will work closely with these customers and provide a range of service options tailored to their circumstances.
The Employer Services Team in Albury has also commenced working with employers in the affected areas who deduct and transfer child support on behalf of employees. This team will assess their needs and any impact for them or their employees.
What will the special response team do?
The team comprises specially trained CSA staff who are skilled for National Emergency Call Centre response work.
The CSA has identified most customers potentially affected by the bushfires those for whom we have an address which lies within the affected areas - and these customers will be automatically put through to the special response team when they call the CSA on 131 272.
Customers who have not been identified as being potentially affected will hear the following message when they ring the CSA, to help us ensure all affected customers are directed to the response team:
'If you have been affected by the Victorian bushfires, please let your Customer Service Officer know. They will transfer you to our emergency response team.'
The team will work closely with the rest of the agency to ensure a consistent approach for all customers and that those affected are treated with the empathy and sensitivity required to minimise further impact on their lives.
The CSA understands the bushfires have affected these parents in a range of ways. In the worst cases, customers or child support children may have been killed in the bushfires, or have lost a love one. They may have lost their home and / or their livelihood. Also, some receiving parents who do not live in the affected areas may receive less child support as a result of the paying parents income being affected by the bushfires.
The response team will work to:
Help both parents in every affected case with several options, including referrals to specialist support services
Ensure assessments reflect current circumstances, and
Sensitively manage the circumstances of any deceased parents or children.
Members of the response team will be available from 8:30am to 4:45pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time. After affected customers make initial contact with the team, more flexible contact arrangements can be negotiated on a case-by-case basis if needs be. Customers with access to the internet and registered with CSAonline can update their details at www.csa.gov.au
What actions have already occurred?
The cases of customers potentially affected by the Victorian bushfires have been reviewed and appropriate action taken to minimise impacts of CSA activities. For example, the automatic intercept of tax returns has ceased and other compliance actions reviewed. The CSA is also working to minimise general correspondence to customers potentially affected.
All CSA staff have received communication about the way in which the Agency will assist and manage affected customers who contact us. Information is also available for customers via the CSA website, and the websites of other DHS agencies, including Centrelink.
The CSA response team is coordinating all of its activities with the Victorian Government and APS agencies involved.