CMS (Child Maintenance Services) replaced the CSA (Child Support Agency) in 2012. Both of these are essentially the same service. Child maintenance is the financial support that the other parent must provide after the child’s parents split up and one of them has custody of the child. The parent who doesn’t raise them most of the time or full-time must contribute to the child’s everyday costs of living. Some ex-partners make a ‘family-based arrangement’ privately without involving CMS. If the parents can’t agree, CMS will create an arrangement.
Contact the CSA to Make a Complaint
In the first instance of a complaint, contact your caseworker. This is the person assigned to you at the centre which deals with your case. You should have their contact number, or you can contact the centre to reach them. They will look into any problems first and attempt to resolve them. If they can’t and it is up to the CSA to resolve it, or you need to dispute their decision, contact them by calling 0843 178 4621. Here are some of the reasons to complain:
- unreasonable delays in issuing the relevant forms to both parents
- inappropriately issuing forms to the wrong person (not the non-resident parent)
- excessive delays in the assessment of child support maintenance
- errors or delays in enforcement action
- delays in liability reviews resulting in overpayments from the non-resident parent or the loss of child support maintenance
How to Complain to the CSA
Ask the office dealing with your case to contact the CSA Complaints Resolution Team or call them yourself and explain the cause of your complaint. The CSA could take up to 15 days to investigate the complaint and inform you of the outcome. If the issue is more complex, they will agree on a timetable for resolving it with you. Chase the complaint if they don’t stick to the schedule and there are further unreasonable delays. The CSA should apologize, find the reason for the issue, and put things right by making necessary changes as soon as possible.
You can escalate to the Complaints Review Team for further consideration if you’re still not happy with the complaints handling process. They will also take 15 days to review the issue. After that, you can contact the Independent Case Examiner, then write to your local MP and ask them to refer your case to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman for you. These are all the stages you must go through if you do not receive a satisfactory resolution.
Can Parents Get Compensation from the CSA?
The CSA or CMS will usually negotiate a repayment schedule if they agree that maintenance is owed. You should complain about the harmful effects on your welfare and the child’s if the payments are far too low. They or the parent who owes maintenance might propose a part-payment of areas with a final settlement. Once you agree to this, you cannot change your mind later. In some cases, the CSA might write off arrears or offset payments instead.
Beyond this, you may want to emphasize the inconvenience or distress caused by the CSA’s actions or lack thereof when you make the complaint. You don’t automatically have a legal right to compensation, but the CSA will consider offering it on a case-by-case basis. This will normally be when maladministration occurs, such as serious mistakes, processing delays, and incorrect information. This negligence can cause parents to lose money and negatively affect them and the child. You should provide some evidence of the impact on your health or examples of repeated inconvenience or embarrassment if you’re expecting a consolatory payment as well. These are two different payments considered separately, but sometimes the CSA might pay both. In some cases, they may not grant either, but you can keep asking.