I had hoped never to have to deal with the bumblers at the CSA ever again.
Not because i have any great issues in principle with what they do (though some of the rules are bizarre). But because i have rarely encountered such a bunch of blethering, incompetent, procedurally inept idiots in all my dealings with government.
And that includes the other bunch of bumblers: the phone service employed by the Working Tax Credit Office.
CSA rules not quite OK
My last encounter with the CSA was way back when (about 15 years ago): my ex and I shared custody of our daughter in equal measure. 50:50 exactly…or maybe even a smidgeon more on my doorstep. But the differnce wasn’t noteworthy.
As many in that position, i jibbed enormously first at the language (the CSA then recognised two categories of parent: resident and “absent”, and i took enormous offence at being described as the latter when i was every bit as present as t’other parent). I also found the calculation ludicrous, in the sense that a rational system might reduce the parent-parent subsidy to zero once one reached 50/50…but not the system enforced by the CSA.
Oh no. That simplified matters by appointing a resident parent, deeming the OTHER parent to be absent and, in exchange for 50% of the care, reducing the amount payable by 50% (not 100%).
Still, that wasn’t their fault. What was their fault were the occasions when they lost correspondence. Mis-estimated amounts. Lost track of amounts already paid. In essence, your average everyday nightmare.
On one occasion, their losing money i’d paid them lead almost to my ex being evicted …but apology came there none.
Between the Devil and the deep blue C(SA)
Fast forward to this year. Since daughter has lived with me for the past 11 or 12 years I should probably have been receiving some maintenance from the ex. No. I definitely should have…but as many will recognise, the tone of exchanges between us was so fraught…and the language i ended up having to endure whenever i brought up issues like money so violent that i just wimped.
I couldn’t pluck up the courage to restart a war that i’d happily walked away from all those years ago. More fool me. That fearfulness has probably cost me twenty grand…or more.
But i couldn’t stand the stress.
Until this year. Times are tight. The daughter needs various things paid for in college. Turning down assistance is no longer an option.
So i have taken my heart in my hands and filled out a CSA form.
Competent Systems Absent!
Ah, well. How could i have forgotten the stupidity of their systems?
A week or so back, i received a printed form. It suggests it might be easiest if i phone to correct details on the form.
OK. I do that. On the phone, an automated, computer-driven voice steps me thru “security”. NI Number. Date of birth and such like.
Such software is not cheap.
I click all the right keys on my phone and hey presto! I am through to an operator and… Can we just do some security, he asks : NI NUmber? Date of Birth?
But i just gave you those!
Yes…but of course, the system doesn’t actually process them. Wonder who sold them that particular pup!
Then its on to the two details that need to change on the form – both minor spelling mistakes.
I walk the operator thru them and then, suspicious, i ask: you did take those down, didn’t you?
Well, its easiest if you just put the form back in the envelope and send it to us.
But…but…I splutter. YOUR letter tells me its easiest if i just phone changes thru to you.
Yes. That’s what it says on the letter. But it would be better if you sent the form.
I put down the phone. Apart from the time wasted, sending the stuff back means they’ll spend another 50p on postage…another couple of quid on processing info they now have.
I have no idea whether this is yet another piece of procedural idiocy on their part – or whether the guy on the phone just couldn’t be arsed to do his job.
Whatever: i am well and truly back at the mercy of the CSA. 😦