Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.
Comments are usually moderated. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment. If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014
THE ALL CONQUERING CSA TANK
The Child Support Agency: I can do no better than quote from Wikipedia; “The CSA's function is twofold, encompassing calculation of how much child maintenance is due (based on current legislation and rules) and collection, enforcement and transferral of the payment from the non-resident parent to the person with care. For the CSA to become involved in a case, their services must be requested by one of the parents. Legislation also allows children in Scotland to initiate a case against one or both non-resident parents”.
It was established in 1993 within the Department of Work and Pensions. Almost from the start it was apparent that those bright sparks deep in the warrens of Whitehall who had drafted the legislation and those whose duties were to implement its management structure had failed to appreciate the monster they had created. Quoting again from Wikipedia, “From 25 November 2013 all new applications for child maintenance will be made through the 'Child Maintenance Service' using the new statutory scheme and associated legislation. No new applications will be accepted by the Child Support Agency, although they will continue to administer existing cases”.
Until my sitting earlier this week it had been about four or five years since I had last sat in a CSA court. By contrast for my colleague who has been on the bench for under two years it was his third such sitting; such are the vagaries of our rota system. We had three appearances who argued against a liability order being granted against them. Sympathetic as we might have been to their situations and inquisitorial as we could be within the strict limitations of our function we granted these liability orders and the others which were unopposed.
Informal discussion with the CSA representative was not unproductive. She said that unlike us she was undertaking court work for CSA two or three times a week and to some extent she did expect courts to rubberstamp all her applications. She did appreciate that she did not have all the documentation to answer all our questions for the simple reason that they would in her opinion have had no relevance to the outcome. We were told that in the event of a historical case where the child involved was no longer within the eligible age group for support any monies collected would go to the supporting parent only if s/he were on benefits at the time in question. If that were not so then collected arrears go directly to the Treasury. As an aside she was unable to deny that having a magistrates` court involved at this stage appeared to be a fig leaf. Our L/A agreed that in general at the court stage most of those appearing were in disagreement about their assessment and accepted, if with some reluctance, their liability. What they disputed were the methodology and calculations employed by CSA to arrive at a final amount owing. Common sense would seem to indicate that some form of tribunal with greater powers than a magistrates` court available to investigate individuals` complaints at the final stage would be more transparent than the current format which is in the form of a CSA Conqueror Tank disguised as a CSA bulldozer.