Q&A with Rebecca Jane – The Lady Detective Agency
June 14, 2012
For parents with care, trying to get payments out of their ex partners, one of the most difficult things can be dealing with the Child Support Agency – especially if their ex is self-employed, or manages to evade the CSA. The CSA tends to only chase payments when the NRP is in employment under PAYE, so they can use a DEO to retrieve payment quickly and easily. They don’t like investigating, doing the leg work or chasing NRPs that make it difficult for them.
So what can parents do if they’re getting no support from the NRP, and the CSA isn’t helping? This is the problem that faced Rebecca Jane, and she solved it by starting The Lady Detective Agency. Now Rebecca runs her own business helping other PWCs track down their exes and provide evidence of their earnings, lifestyle and living arrangements to ensure justice is done.
We caught up with Rebecca today to ask her a few questions about The Lady Detective Agency, and how it helps parents with care get the payments from the CSA they are entitled to.
CSAHell: What first inspired you to start The Lady Detective Agency?
RJ: I’d had personal experience with private investigators. I’d once been in my clients position and tried to hire them to see if my husband was being faithful. I found the investigators I spoke to were cold, hard and only wanted lots of money. They didn’t care about what I was saying, or my feelings. By the end of it I felt more paranoid and silly than ever before. I never hired any of them, because I was too embarrassed to call back.
Instead I roped in my friends. We surveyed him and did lots of other bizarre things, but we did prove he was having liaisons with over 6 women. I chose to forgive, and we stayed married for some years after.
In 2009 when the recession hit us all really bad, I lost my job in the property industry. Along with a serious amount of money. I’d also decided in the same month to divorce my husband. There was just my daughter and I, and I needed a job.
I knew there was a gap in the market for an understanding and affordable private investigation service. I was currently at rock bottom, so the thought of following my dream and opening such investigation company was scary, but I had nothing left to lose. People thought I was mad, but I went for it anyway. The Lady Detective Agency was born.
CSAHell: What media exposure has The Lady Detective Agency received so far?
RJ: We’ve had an amazing amount of exposure. I’ve been throw on lots of major national TV shows. We’ve featured in most national newspapers and a lot of magazines. I regularly feature on radio stations, which I love – certainly a face for radio! I’ve even turned up on Swedish television along side Emile Sande, which was very random.
Currently I’m writing a book based on the work the agency does for ‘Harper Collins’, ‘Tales from the Real Lady Detective Agency’. Which is coming out in January.
CSAHell: Being a ‘lady detective’ seems glamorous and exciting; how does the fact compare to the fiction of detective agencies?
RJ: I tend not to read or watch any TV shows with fictional detectives. Quite bizarre I know. I did have a spell in my younger days of watching ‘Murder she wrote‘. I do LOVE Jessica Fletcher.
Some days our job is glamourous. We’ve stayed in some of the best hotels the country has to offer, and we’ve worked for some amazing international clients. Although that side is quite rare really.
The rest of the time you’re stuck in a car or location for 13 hours solid with one person, bored out of your brains. No one loves that side of it!
CSAHell: Many single parents have experienced problems with the CSA – what has been your personal experience?
RJ: A couldn’t even calculate the amount of people who’ve had problems with the CSA. It’s simply off the scale.
My personal experience… my ex husband doesn’t pay child support, and never has. He is like many of the people we investigate, he dodges his payments in whatever way he can.
I have real sympathy with anyone who can’t work the CSA system, because it’s totally broken!
CSAHell: What sorts of people do you help, and what are their usual circumstances?
RJ: We help anyone who comes to us, and if we can’t help them we tell them before we charge. If we can offer advice for free, we do. It’s only when we literally have to start to investigate do we take any money.
The usual circumstance is that the person coming to us is the resident parent. The non resident parent isn’t paying, or is fiddling the books somewhere to make payments less.
We then get challenged to prove what’s happening, and often we do.
CSAHell: What success stories have you had?
RJ: Every person we’ve investigated is a success story. We’ve literally caught them red handed, earning money when they say they aren’t.
We’ve ‘non working’ builders, literally on building sites directing staff. We’ve caught people trading thousands of pounds worth of items on e-bay and the internet. We’ve found websites they’ve been trading from. We’ve found property, and other assets when they say they have none.
What the CSA does with that information is an entire other ball game.
CSAHell: How has the Child Support Agency responded to your involvement with cases?
RJ: In short, terribly. It can take them years, to look at cases and they lose files like they’re going out of fashion. They don’t hold enough people accountable for their actions, and they are easily fooled. Their complaints system is utterly useless, and quite frankly them wanting to charge for their services would be a crime!
CSAHell: What changes would you like to see happen to the CSA?
RJ: Let’s just scrap the whole thing and start again!
The government need to stop thinking of where their next pound is coming from, and really look at how this system is failing so many people.
It’s disgusting people have to come to us in the first place. The system should be doing a good enough job by themselves.
I don’t actually think the government have ever listened to the people the system fails. They pass them off as a minority, when really they’re a very significant amount. You just have to ring up one of the CSA’s call centres to be told: ‘ we do an excellent job and recover payments from lots of people’… yes you do, if the non resident parent is working. If they’re self employed, they’re utterly useless. Although they gloss over that bit.
CSAHell: The majority of CSA cases see the NRP as being the man, but do you ever represent men where the NRP is the mother?
RJ: We’ve had men come to us, but it’s generally the new husband / partner of the wife who has residency. We’ve yet to have a man come to us who’s struggling to get payments from a woman, although I do accept they exist.
CSAHell: In addition to investigating CSA cases, The Lady Detective Agency also investigates possible infidelity. What are the signs that someone’s partner may be cheating on them?
RJ: We always advise the general sign someone is unfaithful is: ‘A succession of small events’.
- Not coming home on time
- Not being where they say they are
- lying about small things
- Hiding their phone
- Hiding computer usage
- Being secretive
- A change in usual behaviour
All the usuals, but happening frequently over a period of time.
There is no rule book to this kind of thing, we could list a million reasons but everyone is individual. If there’s one thing this job has taught us, ‘just when you think you’re right, you’re generally wrong.’ Never be surprised, never judge, and always keep an open mind.
CSAHell: The Lady Detective Agency is a franchise, what prompted you to franchise the business and how difficult was that?
RJ: Franchising is a nightmare. There’s the legal side to it, which is one thing but the other is losing the element of control.
I fully admit I am the ultimate control freak, I don’t just let anyone in to what I’ve created. After all, they take your name, your brand and all your hard work and effectively trade as you.
The truth is we did it because we don’t have the resources, time or effort to expose every part of the country. Or in deed the world to take this company every where it needs to go.
That being said the control freak in me won’t allow just anyone to run a franchise of our company. I interview and grill everyone who is interested, and we turn people down if they aren’t what we want to represent us. We started mainly to be understanding, and I have to be utterly convinced they’re the same nature as we all are who are here today.
I’m exceptionally pleased to announce that our next branch is opening in Stockholm in August.
CSAHell: As a franchise, anybody could become a ‘lady detective’ by joining The Lady Detective Agency – how could someone get involved with this and what sort of people are you looking for?
RJ: As mentioned, we don’t take just anyone. Anyone can enrol to our training schools though, and learn the basics about how to start in private investigation.
Our company and brand is too important to let just anyone run it. The people we have to take on our new branches are exceptionally caring and considerate. They have the same passion that we do to truly care for their clients, and never make anyone feel like I once did.
- They’re exceptionally smart and clever, and will adapt to any situation
- Their morals and values are strong. They’re legally and ethically right to serve this industry
- Exceptionally easy to talk to, and generally very lovely people
CSAHell: We understand you train your detectives before they start; what sort of training is required to become a ‘lady detective’?
RJ: You have to prepare for every eventuality. You do whatever it takes to get your job done, but will always stay within the law. We advise on all aspects of what’s right and wrong.
We give lots of tips and tricks as to how to survey someone properly, and really try to get brains preparing for anything that could happen.
We show how to start up, and how to market an agency.
That’s just for starters, I can’t be giving away all our secrets!
CSAHell: We’ve heard you have a book coming out in January 2013 featuring stories from the Child Support Agency – what sort of things can we expect to see in the book?
RJ: Yes, the book. It goes into much more detail about why we started on this crazy train, and how we started from nothing.
The rest of the book is all about some jobs we’ve done. We’ve worked for the most crazy and bizarre stories.
We’ve trailed stag parties, transexual prostitutes and tried to find 3 legged cats. We don’t lead very normal lives.
We go very in-depth about a couple of CSA cases where we’ve literally caught people red handed.
CSAHell: Finally, what advice do you have for parents in dealing with the Child Support Agency?
RJ: KEEP GOING! They are an utter nightmare, we have to accept it. Don’t stop pestering them. Make a log of absolutely every time you ring them. Hopefully one day someone, somewhere in the government will actually care and do something about it. When they do, at least we’ll be ready.
CSAHell: Thanks Rebecca for taking the time to talk to use. If you think you may need Rebecca’s help with their ex and the CSA, or if you’re interested in joining The Lady Detective Agency yourself, you can visit the website for more info.