My horror story with the CSA

December 27, 2012

I split from my wife in September 2008 and from then until 2011 maintenance was the least of my concerns. When everything seemed to be resolved my ex-wife decided that paying her directly by standing order at the beginning of the month wasn’t working (?) and contacted the CSA to begin proceedings.

That was in August 2011 and the CSA advised that I would be paying them. No problems – if that was what it was going to take to sort this out then fine although I saw no reason to go through them and neither did the case workers I was talking to at the CSA.

So it began and after asking for some initial details, checking pay amounts etc etc it seemed like everything would be resolved quickly. They said I should stop paying maintenance direct as it could affect what I paid and would cause recalculations which would be difficult. I however chose to continue to pay because I thought then at least my ex-wife couldn’t complain that she wasn’t getting a payment each month.

New Year came and went and I heard nothing. Sporadically I would receive phone calls checking very minor details about the claim and being informed that “it would be resolved soon”.

Still nothing happened and it reached the point where I started ringing them to find out what was going on. My calls to my assigned case worker were, on occasion, not returned and when I got in touch I would have to go through the whole story again and ask why nothing was being done over and over and over again.

In May 2012 I changed jobs (and then again 8 weeks after due to a bad experience) and informed the CSA that I had reduced my incoming and likewise I reduced the payment I was still directly making after “calculating” it on the CSA website. Again I was thanked for updating them and apologised to for it taking such a long time to complete. Ok, I thought, benefit of the doubt that they might have to recalculate due to the fact I’d changed jobs.

Nope. Phone call – Could I now send them pay slips for X-Y dates. “Not a problem;” I said, “But be aware that the dates say Y-Z even though they cover X-Y dates; it’s just how this company dates its slips”.
“Understood” said CSA, “Just send them to us.”

I sent them and then lo and behold received another letter saying I had sent incorrect information and they would be calculating my CSA payment based on the higher salary I had been earning in August 2011. As will come as no surprise I was a mite annoyed and promptly rang them to tell them the error of their ways. Lots of apologies followed and they would note it on the system.

Another big gap and then another phone call – could I confirm my current wages and then send further pay details. Please note I am still paying direct to my ex-wife at this point.

Yes and I did. This is now approaching September 2012. Over a year from the original start date of the claim. I then received three letters with different weekly payment amounts on the same day just to confuse matters. At this point I was trying to contact someone every two or three days but to no avail. Eventually I got mad and told the bored, distracted guy on the phone that someone had better start giving a toss and ring me back because I was losing my patience and calm. I got the call and was told that my case was being prioritised. Fan-flipping-tastic…or not.

Skip forward and another call in November 2012 – they are now calculating what I need to have sent to my ex-wife since August 2011. I explained I had given her amount “A”. To confirm this could I then send across details to them of each payment per month.

Not a problem – I supplied details back for every month upto and including January 2009.

Yet another phone call at the beginning of December – my ex-wife was now claiming I had paid her less than I had calculated and now all arrears on the account were being frozen while investigating. Basically the CSA were looking at my case as if I had NOT MADE ONE PAYMENT DIRECT since August 2011 when the case had been raised.

My ex-wife was then asked to confirm what I had paid her however the two amounts apparently did not tally. I, of course, have bank statements to prove what I have paid to her BUT if she says that money was not paid as maintenance then they will go with her word WHATEVER I have paid and whatever proof I have of a monthly payment since August 2012!!!!

This seems totally unreasonable that I can prove I have paid every month – she could basically say she’s had NOTHING!!!

Anyway, finally they contacted me earlier this week to set up the direct debit however their computer wasn’t working to do so. I nearly refused to set it up because there was discussion over the fact that the amounts differed and had not been resolved – surely giving them my details was like writing Manchester City FC a blank cheque if they needed to make any arrears back. They basically threatened that if I didn’t set up the direct debit they would just set up a court order and take the money anyway.

In the end I had to arrange a call back for the evening because of the computer failure. Problem was that I missed the call because my phone was on silent and charging upstairs. “Whoops,” I thought, “I’ll ring them tomorrow” even though ringing and giving details in work time was not my preference.

They attempted to call when I was on the phone at work and it took me an HOUR to get back to them – to be told that it was tough and they would had sent out the court order to take the money from my wages!!!

To say I let rip on the phone was an understatement – this was not fair in any way because of the chasing and general rubbish service I had received. I’d even given up trying to make a complaint because it would be handled by a supervisor and NEVER make it into the complaints process as I was told by an advisor. The staff really don’t care until you raise your voice and then stop being patronising because it gets beyond their comprehension. I managed to get the court order overturned because of the state of the case and a lot of insisting that I wanted to speak to someone who would sort it. I missed ONE call in over a year and they were on it like a dog to a bone…and that’s where I am now. Waiting AGAIN although it has now been set up we will see what happens. There seems to be no fairness in the process. I can have all the proof in the world, paid millions and even (which I did) chase them to get a process in place for a case that I DIDN’T EVEN RAISE IN THE FIRST PLACE and they would still go with the word of my ex “just because” that’s how it is. If I want to complain about this I would need to go to my local MP. How is this logical? This is like me buying a brand new car from Ford and then going to Ferrari to complain when it breaks down. No-one talks to each other and everyone is more than willing to drag things out, pass them on or just ignore it until it kicks off. If I did this at work I would be sacked. Funnily it seems that the guys on the phone know how bad it is and just go with the flow.

Anyway, the arrears are still frozen and there is a “backlog” so God knows how long that will take to resolve. Speak to you in December 2013….


  • stuart says:

    Do not speak to them by phone unless you record it, do it all in writing they will lie and amend your records to suit themselves.

    Very Very important.

  • Carol says:

    It is truly a shambles of an Agency and you are right, your ex could have said she received no payment and she would have been believed.

    As stuart says do not deal with them over the telephone. Do everything in writing and send letters by recorded delivery so they cannot say they have lost any of your correspondence.

    You can get a copy of your file from CSA, Data Protection Unit, Newcastle for a small fee of £10 which will show what has been done on your case, or not!!

    YOu can write a letter of complaint, but in my experience with the Agency, this is not always replied to. We got our MP involved, which gave a gateway to start the complaint process. Once your MP is involved you are assigned one person to deal with your case which helps to move matters along.

    I would not believe they have not went ahead with the DEO on your salary. Once that is in place it is hard for them to remove it, or so they say. They do not have to go to Court to place this in your salary and will do it direct with your employer.

  • Alice says:

    The very reason that you were told at the start not to make direct payments was because any payment made direct has to be confirmed by the PWC as being in respect of Child Maintenance, bank statements can be submitted as evidence, but the only way to ‘prove’ that the payments were for child maintenance is if you have receipts signed by the pwc showing the dates, amounts and stating that these payments were for child maintenance.

    The multiple letters all dated the same day are due to the fact that under the current legislation multiple changes are progressed under Spring Regs (July 2011) and as such all changes must be progressed on the system the same day. Each letter should detail the effective date for each calculation. If there are multiple changes (income, employer etc) this will account for some of the delay, however it does seem that there was delays along the way outwith the time required to gather the information for each change, as such you can make a formal complaint in writing.

  • stuart says:

    The very reason that you were told at the start not to make direct payments was because any payment made direct has to be confirmed by the PWC as being in respect of Child Maintenance, bank statements can be submitted as evidence, but the only way to ‘prove’ that the payments were for child maintenance is if you have receipts signed by the pwc showing the dates, amounts and stating that these payments were for child maintenance.

    Why is the onus on the NRP to prove the payments were for Child maintenance?

    Under law the PWC should have to prove it was not? If a bank statement proves a payment was made to a PWC.

    This is so one sided and wrong it beggars belief.

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