Recommendations from Parliamentary Inquiry

In July 2015, the Parliamentary Inquiry into Child Support provided 25 clear recommendations for improvement of CSP (Child Support Program – used to be “CSA”).

To save trawling through the whole report, here’s what the Committee recommended :

  1. Collect comprehensive demographic information on all clients of the Child Support Program, and use that information to ensure child support tools, practices and procedures are culturally and linguistically tailored.
  2. Make anonymised statistical information on the Child Support Program and its clients available so that the effects of the scheme may be better researched, evaluated and understood.
  3. Provide additional funding and training to Family Relationship Centres to assist separating or separated parents to negotiate child support arrangements.
  4. Provide additional funding and training to Family Relationship Centres to trial the provision of mediation services in cases involving child support objections or change of assessment processes.
  5. Review the Child Support Program to ensure the adequacy of calculated amounts and equity of the program for both payers and payees relating to :
    – the current self-support amount and indexation mechanisms;
    – the cost of children table and indexation mechanisms;
    – the use of gross income levels for child support payment calculations; and
    – consideration of child support income management where there are substantiated allegations of child support payments not being adequately spent on the needs of the child.
  6. Australian National Audit Office conduct a performance audit of the cooperation between the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Human Services to address the non-lodgement of tax returns by clients of the Child Support Program. (Note : understood to be underway, report due April 2017 has been delayed)
  7. Amend current policy to ensure that the penalties applicable to the non-lodgement or late-lodgement of tax returns are enforced for all clients of the Child Support Program.
  8. Enable a greater period of time before determining when to adjust the amount of child support payable in interim care determinations.
  9. Consider international models for enforcing contact/parenting orders through the child support program
  10. Review Capacity to Earn – intent of the “capacity to earn” criteria is to prevent payers deliberately avoiding their financial responsibilities in respect to shared parenting. However there are also genuine instances where a person’s earning capacity may decrease due to decreased market demand for certain skills, the need to retrain, health issues or other life changes.
  11. Develop a clearer system for resolving disputes about the payment of school fees as Non-Agency Payments.
  12. Consider matters pertaining to:
    – the hurdle for courts to set aside Child Support Agreements made before 1 July 2008, and to set aside all Binding Child Support Agreements, and
    – the amendment of Act to allow the Registrar to take into account amended tax assessments.
  13. Ongoing internal audit of the consistency of advice and decision-making by Child Support Program staff, with results published regularly
  14. Introduce a Centrelink policy to actively ask all CSP clients with an FTB entitlement which FTB calculation method they wish to use
  15. Expedite the conclusion of the Department of Human Services videoconferencing trial, and prioritise the provision of videoconferencing services
  16. Address the Child Support Program’s issues of complexity and proliferation in communications by seeking advice on how to incorporate insights from behavioural economics and best-practice
  17. Appoint dedicated and suitably trained ‘information officers’ in the Child Support Program to clearly explain how advice or a decision was arrived at.
  18. Create a mechanism for Child Support Program clients to nominate preferred communication methods, including restriction to phone calls or letters, to ensure that communication by the Child Support Program does not cause harm.
  19. Conduct ongoing statistical surveys of the rate of actual payment for Child Support Program clients using Private Collect, with results published regularly
  20. Australian National Audit Office conduct a performance audit of the Child Support Program’s Legal Enforcement service, including the extent of the Child Support Program’s public criteria for pursuing litigation.
  21. Amend the legislation governing Departure Prohibition Orders (DPOs) such that DPOs are only issued by a tribunal or court on the application of the Registrar and after providing an opportunity for the subject of the DPO to be heard.
  22. Ensure equity in the collection of child support debts and of overpayments, in particular that the same flexibility that applies to the collection of overpayments is applied to the collection of debts, especially where the debts were unintended.
  23. Respond to Australian Law Reform Commission Report 117 Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws – Improving Legal Frameworks as a priority.
  24. Recognise the importance of specialist response and support to separated families where family violence has been present.
  25. Examine the social and economic impacts, conduct modelling and consider a trial of a limited child support guarantee system for either vulnerable families or for a random sample of Child Support Program clients.Source : Extract from “From conflict to cooperation – Inquiry into the Child Support Program”
    c/- House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs

    These findings are entirely consistent with the issues and complaints raised by the Facebook group seeking reform of the unjust and inefficient Child Support regime. It is beyond belief these recommendations have been tabled for nearly 2 years and CSP “clients” continue to suffer.The Committee’s report summary states : “As soon as it becomes available, the Government response will be published on the Committee’s website.”There has been no response published on the Committee’s website.

    The Department of Social Security has pointed enquiries to what it terms the Government’s “response” to the above recommendations.  This response is located here.  The responses appear vague and have no action date nominated. It is impossible to tell if customers can actually expect change.  It seems highly unlikely until a Royal Commission is held into the operations of the CSP.

    What progressive change has actually been implemented at the Child Support Program? Crickets. No ticker. Poor form. Sad.