16th March 2010
The CSNSEG (Child Support National Stakeholder Engagement Group) meeting in Canberra today moved into top gear with a range of presentations around proposed legislative amendments to support significant enhancements to the Child Support legislation that was implimented in 2008.
The Hon Jenny Macklin MP is the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and gave up some time from duties in the House to come accross and outline important issues. In response to a query from Barry Williams of the LFAA regarding families facing financial pressures.
FaHCSIA have been working on a range of small projects which are well advanced or are in review. The works have been in progress for some time and significant input has been made by stakeholders including the Shared Parenting Council of Australia.
Minister Macklin saidWe are accutely aware of the higher cost of living and and to assist families we have expanded the child care rebate, Education tax refunds, and the Medicare dental plan. The most significant thing we have done is assist families through the economic stimulus package.
These payments have been extremly important to families. Our fundemental focus of Government has been to keep people in work. We have seen a decline in unemployment and impact on jobs from the stimulus program
The best way to support families is to keep people in jobs
Another key measure is the 18 weeks Parental Leave Scheme coming before Parliament shortly.
On 8th December 2009, the Change of Assessment (CoA) reform project commenced Stage 1 of a pilot which involving the trial of a Decision Maker Up Front (DMUF) model and a new case assessment methodology aimed at finalising the majority of CoA applications within 35 days. Stage 1 was trialled in Adelaide and Melbourne sites with 4 Internal Senior Case Officers (SCO's). Stage 2 of the project commenced on 15 February and saw a modest expansion to allow less senior staff (though still at the Manager level equivalent) making less complex decisions (including Pre Conference Refusal decisions).
The CSNSEG (Child Support Stakeholder Engagement Group) is made up of a wide cross section of stakeholders from all facets of the family areana. The Group has been formed in recognition that CSA, FaCSIA and AGs regularly engage the same stakeholders on closely related issues.
David Sippel the Director, Change of Assessment (CoA) Reform saidEarly results from the trial are very positive. 281 cases have been allocated and, of the 132 finalised to date, 75% were finalised within 35 days.
28% of applications have been withdrawn as a result of applications not having grounds or because other administrative options were available.
19% of applications resulted in customers agreeing (where both customers were satisfied with the end result). Early feedback from customers is positive, particularly relating to the reduced timeframes and their overall CoA experience.
In addition, work is being done on revising the CoA application (and response form). This is progressing well, with a second draft to shortly issue to key stakeholders and internal specialist staff for feedback. The form will support the Decision Maker Up Front model and will be less onerous for customers (it is only five or six pages long). The form will generally not require customers to provide as much information up front, rather, the SCO will look at each application and identify and discuss with customers what information ought to be provided.
The meeting on 16th March 2010 was chaired by Mr Barry Sandison the Group Manager Families Group FaHCSIA. A extensive agenda covered A summary of proposed legislative reforms around Alignment of Care and Income estimates, discussion on a circulated 'Compliance and Enforcement' study paper, Minister Macklin, COA review from David Sippel, Discussion and update from Ms Philippa Godwin Deputy Secretary Child Support and Planning and member updates and discussions around the 'Emerging Issues'The Group responds to
a) Governments decision that FaCSIA should establish an advisory group - Recommendation 29.3 and,
b) The CSAs commitment to a stronger and more active level of engagement between CSA and its stakeholders.
The Group will work towards better outcomes for separated and separating families. The joint engagement with stakeholders aims to minimise duplication of effort for both government and stakeholder groups and ensure coherent policies and a coordinated approach to service delivery in child support and related areas.
Other stakeholders attending were Terese Edwards from the National Council of Single Mothers and their Chidren, Barry Williams from the Lone Fathers Association of Australia, Wayne Butler from the Shared Parenting Council of Australia, Tony Miller Dads in Distress, Kathleen Swinbourne from the Sole Parents Union.
Other attendees on this key advisory group represent 'Researchers', 'Community Service Providers', 'Legal' , and 'Government'.