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CSA made 700 privacy breaches last year

Sociologist and University of South Australia researcher Elspeth McInnes said the safety of women and children had been compromised by the breaches.
     But not one man, of course, Ms McInnes?!  (Thanks to LL for this observation.)
Agency made 700 privacy breaches
By Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent

The Australian
3 March 2008

The Child Support Agency faces an urgent review over nearly 700 privacy blunders in the past year, including people being given the confidential contact details of their former spouses.

Human Services Minister Joe Ludwig said yesterday that he questioned the agency's competence over the breaches, and ordered an overhaul of its administration.

"I am not satisfied with the performance of the Child Support Agency in relation to maintaining the privacy of its clients," he said.

"I have called for a full briefing in relation to breaches of privacy and options to strengthen existing safeguards."

Senator Ludwig said the Rudd Government took client privacy "very seriously" and wanted to put in place the best possible safeguards.

The CSA committed 687 privacy breaches in 2006-07. "While any breach is concerning, nearly 700 in a single year is a poor record," Senator Ludwig said.

The privacy breaches come two years after the CSA had promised to change its culture and the way it deals with 1.3million parents.

A mother of four said recently she was scared because the agency had given her address to her allegedly violent ex-husband.

The woman had moved house and kept her address secret from her ex-husband only to find it was given to him in documents from the CSA.

Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported that the 36-year-old woman was in a dispute with her ex-husband over support payments for their two children since the couple had divorced in2002.

The newspaper reported that her security was shattered when her details were released without her permission last July.

Sociologist and University of South Australia researcher Elspeth McInnes said the safety of women and children had been compromised by the breaches.

"Having details exposed to a person you've fled is dangerous and undermining," she said. "It creates fear and can result in new attacks and harassment, and it can force people to move again.

"It can be catastrophic in terms of its consequences."

Ms McInnes said there had been complaints about the CSA's procedures for many years, but change had not been delivered.

"We continue to push that domestic violence is a mainstream major problem," she said.

"I don't think risk management for domestic violence is embedded in the CSA's practice.

"They have not set up a set of protocols, training and practices embedded throughout every step of the agency process to keep people safe."

CSA general manager Matt Miller said the breaches had occurred because of increasing caseloads and the creation of new avenues of appeal that had opened up the interchange of documents between estranged couples.

"Many of the breaches are minor and internal. The number of serious breaches are minor but we recognise we have to do better," Mr Miller said.

"We are reviewing our procedural instructions and training, because we take this seriously."

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