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Independent News For The Australian Public Service
Edition Number 408. Updated Tuesday, 06 May 2014

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Managing child support objections

An audit of the Department of Human Services' administration of child support objections has determined it to be 'relatively effective' but with scope for improvement.

In his report Review of Child Support Objections, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee found the Department received 15,307 objection applications in 2012-13 and dealt with 14,032 of them.

"The administration of the objection review process is resource-intensive," Mr McPhee said, "involving over 100 staff with a direct cost to the Department of $11.17 million in 2012-13."

Mr McPhee said the objection review process, a feature of the scheme since its inception 25 years ago, enabled a parent or eligible carer to request a review of a child support decision made by the Department.

He said Human Services' administration of the child support objection review process had been reasonably effective, with the Department operating a generally accessible and methodical review process.

'Effective' but can be improved

Mr McPhee said the objection review process also featured a number of positive elements intended to support clients and a capacity to provide more intensive support for those with complex issues, however there remained scope to strengthen aspects of quality assurance.

Mr McPhee said there was scope to evaluate the use of the Registrar's existing information‑gathering powers, which included a capacity to compel evidence from non‑cooperative clients, so as to improve the evidence base for Departmental decision‑making and reduce the potential for successful appeals on the basis of new information.

He said the more effective use of existing Departmental feedback loops, particularly feedback provided by objection review staff to original decision‑makers, had the potential to help reduce both the number of objections and the incidence of original decisions overturned through the objection review process.

Mr McPhee said the ANAO had made four recommendations relating to: reviewing use of the Registrar's information gathering powers; recording delegate approvals of decisions and completion of pre‑decision quality assurance checks; improved feedback by objection officers; and improved public reporting on the effectiveness of the Department's decision‑making.

The full audit report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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