CSA – a way forward?

The proposed changes to the CSA have given rise to a number of questions and concerns from single parents across the UK. When we first mentioned the CSA on our blog, the response was huge (read that article here) Now, Beki Davies offers us her views on how the Government might best approach these issues of reform. Thank you Beki…


I have been following the reports and commentary on the proposed changes to the CSA with real interest. I have a personal interest in how the system works but I also like to look at everything with a logical and can do approach – it’s just something I do.

What I can clearly see is that the government is looking to patch over the leaking cash from the CSA by charging its existing and potential customers for the service that they currently don’t even provide.

Without even attempting to improve the existing service or asses its value, they are making ill informed proposals that will not even provide a reasonable fix.
Please note that I am no solicitor, nor do I profess to know everything – I am also quite aware that my views are mine and therefore not the complete answer. However I always try and approach everything with a “make a difference” approach, so if I can influence some thinking with my views then it has to worth a try.

Dear Government body dedicated to the “reform and changes of the CSA”
You run a service provision and as such you should have company that is able to provide that service in the most efficient and professional manner to the customers that you have.
Please find detailed below some simple steps that I feel could significantly improve the service provided to your customers and the efficiency with which you provide that service. Without necessarily the need to “charge” for what you do.

How can you reform something that is broken? You can’t, you have to fix what you have first otherwise you are papering over cracks which will come back to impact on you, your customers and your reputation.

Define who you are and what you do
The CSA are an organisation dedicated to ensuring that children receive the fair financial support from both parents in a timely and dedicated manner
1. Always act in the best interests of the children
2. Communication is central to all that we do
3. We listen to our customers and respect their individual situation.
4. Our front line staff will always be recognised for the job that they do.
Let’s take each of those points

Always act in the best interests of the children
All systems and processes are set up to interact (both ways) with all other bodies concerned with child welfare. E.g. child benefit, tax credits etc. These systems regular update and provide the front line staff with all and any information.

Communication is central to all that we do
We will return calls, respond to emails & update all others involved in a timely and relevant manner.  Our systems will be regularly updated with all information that is relevant to the CSA.

We listen to our customers and respect their individual situations.
There is a back up in place that enables staff to make informed decisions regarding individual cases, that will resolve matters efficiently.  Our staff will have access to alternative sources of support for cases such as mediation or intervention as they see necessary.

Our front line staff will always be recognised for the job that they do
Our staff will always give a reference number and take personal responsibility to seeing a case through to a satisfactory conclusion. They will be provided with adequate training and resources to enable them to do that and feel confident that they will be supported through to the conclusion of each case.

In order to provide the above you have to be able to measure your success. This must be reflected in the staff reward and recognition structure and all policies on training and development. This needs to be applied throughout the hierarchy of the business.
1. The number of cases closed that remain closed for more than a set period of time
2. The speed with which a case is resolved
3. The number of cases that are resolved without full involvement of the CSA.
4. Staff satisfaction at work and staff turnover levels.

Asses where you currently are
You have to put a stake in the ground that gives you a start point to measure success for any kind of improvements that you are looking to make.
1. What are current resources you have? Staff at what level of training? IT systems that have what functionality?
2. What are the existing performance measures in the business and where do you perform to them?
3. What is the current value of this organisation to all potential customers?
4. Who are the key stakeholders in this organisation?
5. What are the tangible benefits of this organisation society as a whole?

Asses what needs to be done?
There are some key steps that you have to take in order to understand the current constraints, frustrations and barriers to your organisation working.
1. Are the current stakeholders the right people / organisations for this business?
2. Be a customer – why is the CSA used? – sit with people currently in the system and listen as they make calls, fill in forms or use the website. Make sure this is a complete cross-section so you can truly understand what you do really well, where you under-perform and where there are opportunities to change how you do things
3. Work in a call centre – take at least 2 weeks to sit in the call centre taking calls and trying to resolve live issues there and then. This will give you true insight into where the communication works or doesn’t, where other systems need to be adapted or updated; knowledge of where the system works and where you can learn from
4. Ask key organisations that support your customers for constructive and informed feedback on the key things that will improve your performance. They are the ones that deal with the fallout from non performance and will have invaluable understanding of how you can improve.
5. Are there any other service providers that you can learn from in your approach? A great example I would give is ACAS – it does work for the majority and there could be some key learning for how you approach this.

Business Plan
• What will your income be? At what profit level do you have to work (suggest nil cost)? What return on any investment is required within what timescale?
• What do you need to do to improve the service provision?
• Where are the costs?  Where can you save costs? E.g. once an agreed level of payment is reached through a simple IT process responsibility for collecting that payment switches to HMCS (who are taking payments regularly from payslips anyway?)
• Training requirement; IT requirement; time
• What will the return on investment to the stakeholders be? How should that be measured?

• This should be the simple part, but has the potential to become damaging. You have to be very aware of the psychology of change and ensure it is viewed as positive, not about job losses or extra workload
• You should focus on the following:-
– gain the respect of all the people involved so they know what to expect whilst change is implemented.
– set a clear simple critical path for full implementation then break it down into bit size pieces and share that information with all those concerned.
– enable your teams to take ownership for their part in the business and how key that is to success.
– ensure that all involved understand what is expected of them and that they have the necessary tools and support to continue providing a service whilst this is happening.
– engage all other external parties with the critical path e.g. IT providers so they know what is expected of them. Make sure they are managed clearly, directly and firmly to committed timescales and costs.
• Give yourself a reasonable timescale to make this happen. Setting unrealistic targets puts people under unnecessary pressure which makes the process become grey and unachievable.
• Make sure you review, everyday at some levels to start with may well be necessary.
• Customers and staff should be encouraged to feedback at every step. In a constructive and structured way.
• If something is not working, hold your hands up, fix it and move on. Immediately.

You have a business that is fundamentally broken even by your own admission. There is nothing that  I have read that answers any of the questions I have posed above, nor evidences that any of the business assessments have been taken to justify these reforms. You cannot set out to reform the CSA before you truly understand what is fundamentally wrong with it. No organisation can. You should then try to improve it in a realistic and structured way.
Reform may well then not be necessary, if you approach this in the right way, you could end up with a more efficient, customer focused and improved service without the need for words like “reform” at all.

Beki – thank you for this thoughtful article. It will be very interesting to see what people think. We look forward to your comments…


About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
This entry was posted in Family Law, Family Law Fortnight, Guest posts. Bookmark the permalink.

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