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Monday, 22 May 2006
Page: 175


Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Minister for Human Services, in writing, on 7 February 2006:

(1)   What training do case officers receive prior to being able to make decisions relating to change of assessment.

(2)   Are there guidelines for a case officer to follow when assessing a child support case; if so, what are the details.

(3)   How much discretion does a case officer have in determining child support.

(4)   Can an independent and external case officer be appointed to a child support matter; if so, how many requests were (a) made and (b) granted in the financial year ending 30 June (i) 1991, (ii) 1992, (iii) 1993, (iv) 1994, (v) 1995, (vi) 1996, (vii) 1997, (viii) 1998, (ix) 1999, (x) 2000, (xi) 2001, (xii) 2002, (xiii) 2003, (xiv) 2004, and (xv) 2005.


Mr Hockey (Minister for Human Services) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   Senior Case Officers bring into their contracts the family law related qualifications, skills and experience necessary to make decisions relating to change of assessment. Prior to commencing case work, they are provided with administrative training to enable them to exercise their skills in the CSA environment. This training includes 3 days of formal training, where they learn about the organisation, the child support formula, change of assessment procedures, privacy matters, holding a conference, as well as detailed information about each of the reasons under which a change of assessment decision may be made (including case studies). Following formal training, there is a mentoring program which, based on identified individual needs, may include buddying with more experienced Senior Case Officers, sitting in on conferences, or other training/guidance as required. In addition, Senior Case Officers have all of their decisions monitored, with changes made and guidance given as required, for a period of time after commencement. This continues until the manager is satisfied that decisions are being made and written up to an appropriate standard, or until a decision is made to terminate the Senior Case Officer’s contract. Senior Case Officer contracts require them to independently maintain and improve their skill-levels, and to participate periodically in refresher training and quality assurance in relation to the tasks associated with their decision-making.

(2)   Senior Case Officers are required to follow Family Law precedents, and to have regard to CSA and government policy when making decisions. Child Support policy is reflected in The Guide which appears on the CSA website [www.csa.gov.au]. CSA also provides procedural instructions that indicate how CSA policies apply to Change of Assessment circumstances.

(3)   The discretion is only limited by the grounds for departure contained in the legislation and any Family Court decisions determining how those grounds are to be considered.

(4)   External Senior Case Officers only make decisions in Change of Assessment matters, including any objections to Change of Assessment decisions. CSA also has a small number of internal Senior Case Officers. The statistics do not record the breakdown between external and internal Senior Case Officers. By ‘granted’ I assume you mean that the assessment was changed. I provide information of the number of applications finalised rather than ‘made’ for the financial years ended 30 June 1999/2000 - 2004/2005 in the table below. Information prior to that would be costly to obtain. The Change of Assessment service option did not exist prior to 1993.

Financial Year

Applications Finalised

Assessments Changed

1999/2000

31,118

17,120

2000/01

33,120

18,680

2001/02

30,117

17,170

2002/03

30,983

16,279

2003/04

28,693

14,887

2004/05

25,935

14,315

To prepare this answer, it has taken approximately 16 hours at an estimated cost of $700.