What the hell is going on with Child Support?
By Terese Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of the National Council Single Mothers and their Children | 24 December 2017
High-income non-resident fathers were the big-ticket winners
…whilst low to middle income single mums took the hardest hit
Terese Edwards, NCSMC
Terese Edwards, NCSMC
You could be forgiven for missing that there was an extensive National Child-Support Inquiry in 2014. It sparked energy, hope and concern. A National Inquiry, once transacted into action, along with the collective resolve can produce progressive outcomes. However, there can be a flipside, as we learnt from the 2006 Inquiry.
There were some swings and roundabouts, but generally high-income non-resident fathers were the big-ticket winners whilst low to middle income single mums took the hardest hit. A non-sensible outcome as the losses were felt in the households where the children primarily reside, and the households that had the least to give.
Child Support self-support amount does not acknowledge resident parenting
A little stinger that added to the bleak picture was the ‘equalisation’ of the self-support amount. Pre-2008 the ‘resident parent’ (primary carers) had the first $45,505 of their income disregarded, while the non-resident parent had $15,378. On 1st July 2008, the amount was ‘equalized’ which meant that both the ‘resident parent’ (primary carer) and the non-resident parent had the same amount ($18,252), irrespective of parenting time demands.
The legislation fails to acknowledge real-life implications such as time restrictions to undertake full-time paid employment, complete over-time, undertake study, take up field work or other opportunities that involve being away from home and/or travel for work. We all know that the primary carer either forgoes revenue and/or bears an additional and un-reflected cost. The value and contribution of unpaid care is now completely absent from the Child Support Scheme despite its significance and its value to the Australian Economy.
Child Support Australia legislation marginalised by the government
In the main, child-support legislation seems to be marginalised and/or sidelined from the political agenda. We have lived through the intensive data matching commonly known as the Centrelink Robot Debt. Just imagine for one moment, if there was one 10th of that energy committed to recovering child-support debt. Alleluia!.
Imagine if the government was committed to recovering child-support debt
The Department of Human Services in its 2015–16 Annual Report stated that it had ‘worked with separated parents to transfer $3.5 billion to support approximately 1.2 million children’. This signals the importance of a scheme as it touches close to a quarter of Australian children (under 18 years).
Australian Child Support Debt is understated
The report did not talk about the debt which is widely reported to be $1.5 billion.
A nicely airbrushed figure that does not consider customers who have a Private Collect Agreement. Private Collect customers are assumed to have received their payment on-time and in-full. That’s just nonsense.
Households where the children primarily reside are in hardship due to Child Support not being paid
Private Collect Child Support
While we are talking about private collect, the National Council Single Mothers and their Children are not fans. We ask every mother to tread carefully before agreeing to private collect.
If you change from a private collect to a CSA collect, most typically CSA will only collect the debt for the last three-months. On that matter, you can unilaterally choose to end a private collect (if you are a payee) this means you don’t need the payer’s permission.
Lobbying to have customers with a child-support agreement to lodge their tax return
Failure to lodge a tax return is a common way to avoid paying child support
We know the problem associated with the child-support scheme, we have a stack of solutions and not short of energy, in fact we are hungry for change and look for opportunities to raise the issues. We have started the process of lobbying to have customers with a child-support agreement to lodge their tax return, annually and at the prescribed dates set by the ATO. This is a no-brainer and it defies belief that we still must lobby for this outcome.
Non-lodgement of tax returns is tax avoidance as well as child-support minimisation/avoidance. It also erodes the efficacy of the scheme. Why bother with estimates, when a little bit of action can result in factual amounts? Let’s deal with reality.
A forum of key women’s organisations and alliances
Secondly, we want others to sing to the same song-sheet. NCSMC is organising a forum of key women’s organisations and alliances so they can understand the depth the breadth and the importance of child-support. The more on-board the merrier.
Child Support evasion is financial abuse
The bills mount up while child support payers are allowed to dodge the system
Finally, we are calling the non-payment of child-support what it is. We’re naming it as ‘financial abuse’. If you share this view you are most welcome to visit this NCSMC website and add your voice and your experience. We will use this information raise awareness and to enrich our collective efforts.
You can also comment your thoughts or how much you are owed in the comments section at the end of this article.
All I want for Christmas – is child support to be paid on-time and in-full.
National Council of Single Mothers and their Children
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