Child Support Agency (Australia)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Child Support Agency (CSA) is an Australian Government organisation which was established in 1988 to administer the assessment and collection of child support under the Australian Government's Child Support Scheme.

In 2011 Child Support became one of the Master Programs of the Australian Government Department of Human Services (Australia). It is no longer an independent government agency.

Overview[edit]

The CSA is responsible for administering the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989[1] which sets out the calculation of child support, based on a formula encompassing the income of the parent/s, care arrangements of the children, ages of the children, other dependents and a number of other factors; and the Child Support (Registration and Collection Act) 1988[2] regarding to the transfer and collection of the calculated payments, including enforcement of unpaid amounts.

The CSA has approximately 1.5 million customers [3] and employs over 4000 staff.[4]

While it is one of the most complained about Australian Government agencies, the Australian Child Support Agency is recognized as a world leader in terms of effectiveness and efficiency at administering child support.[5]

The standard formula calculates the majority of the 1.5 million cases administered, the formula is set up in such a way that a new amount is generally calculated on an annual basis as incomes change and children grow older, or if there are any changes to the care arrangements, birth of new children and so on.[6]

In some circumstances parents can make their own agreements as to what child support is paid, also there are provisions for agency review of individual formula assessments in special circumstances, and the courts may also set amounts payable should either or both parents seek a court ruling on the matter.[7]

Transfer of payments can be made independently of the agency (approximately 46% of cases) or via the agency as either a voluntary arrangement, or through enforcement. Voluntary payments can be made through payroll deductions, deductions from welfare payments, internet transfers or payment at Australia Post outlets.

Enforcement can range from the involuntary garnishee from salary and bank accounts, to litigation and restrictions on overseas travel until payment has been made.[8]

History & evolution of the scheme[edit]

The CSA was established as part of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in 1988 to administer the Child Support Scheme.

Prior to 1988, child maintenance was managed through the court system, this scheme proved costly to determine amounts and ineffectual in enforcing payment. In 1986, the Australian Government proposed reforms to child support. The proposed reforms were:

  • A formula to determine the level of child maintenance payable
  • Enforcement of maintenance through the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
  • An administrative process to apply the formula with a right of appeal to the courts[9]

These reforms were implemented through two Acts of Parliament - the Child Support (Registration and Collection Act) 1988 and the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989.

In February 2006, the Australian Government announced major reforms to the Child Support Formula. These reforms were introduced in stages over four years, the first major changes to the Child Support Formula took effect from 1 July 2008.

These changes recognized more diverse arrangements for care of children, began treating the incomes of both custodial and non custodial parents more equitably, increased entitlements for teenage children, and made special provisions for the 3 years immediately after separation while parents re-established themselves financially.

The changes were not retrospective.[10]

In 2011 Child Support became one of the Master Programs of the Australian Government Department of Human Services (Australia). It is no longer an independent government agency.

Criticism[edit]

Child support is a divisive issue for many people. While the scheme has enjoyed bipartisan support from successive governments since 1988, lobby groups for those who receive child support as well as those who pay[who?] have complained about perceived shortfalls off the scheme.

Resident parent groups[who?] have complained that the agency remains ineffective against non compliance from self-employed parents in particular (a group to whom many administrative enforcement procedures such as salary garnishees are not possible), while many paying parent groups[who?] complain that they are treated unfairly, in particular a recent program[citation needed] undertaken by the agency reconciled a number of income estimates from paying parents that were up to 10 years old, creating large debts that were not appealable under any existing arrangements (courts only having jurisdiction for 7 years of retrospectivity[citation needed]).

For those where 50/50 shared care agreements are in place further issues have arisen often creating bitterness, fuelling arguments and generally breaking down goodwill between the parents.[citation needed] An example where both parents are gainfully employed yet one parent has to pay the other parent a percentage of their income.[citation needed] Many[who?] consider this unfair as one parent is simply collecting money from the other when they are more than capable of paying their own share. The argument[by whom?] being that if both parents share care and both parent pay 50% of all shared costs why would one parent have to provide the other parent with more money? The CSA don't appear to have a specific clear response to this. Responses[by whom?] have ranged from "it's a little top up for the kids"[citation needed] to "it's just the rules of the system".[citation needed] Critics of this particular aspect of the system[who?] argue it should be on a case by case basis yet response from CSA representative[citation needed] has been that it's too much micromanagement. The rebuttal[by whom?] has been if the Centrelink can provide case by case management in matters then why not the CSA on this matter?

Another reported criticism[by whom?] stems from the large proportion of female employees in the CSA.[citation needed] This leads some men[who?] dealing with the CSA to claim to feel that the low proportion of male staff in the organisation[citation needed] leads to unfair discrimination in the way men are handled, spoken to and the way decisions are made.[citation needed]

Further criticism of CSA is the use of number of nights as a way to determine how much child support should be paid to the primary caregiver. The major criticism is that this method has been used as a loop-hole by the primary carer to increase the level of payment they receive. A typical scenario might be when a primary carer moves a long distance away from the other parent, creating barriers to access such as distance and increased cost. The Child Support Agency does not have the capacity to incorporate these nuances when determining an assessment, therefore adversely penalising the non primary caregiver.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]