How to complain to the Child Support Agency

Date last updated: 14 June 2018

How to complain to the CSA

This guide explains how to complain if you’re unhappy with the service you’ve received from the Child Support Agency (CSA). It also covers what to do if your complaint isn’t resolved, and how to escalate it.

If you need to complain about the Child Maintenance Service see our factsheet Using the Child Maintenance Service.

If you disagree with the calculation of the amount of child maintenance you should receive you probably need to appeal the decision, rather than complain. You can find more information on appealing against decisions in the factsheet Challenging your child maintenance calculation.

What is the complaints process?

Complain to your case worker

You should start by complaining directly to your case worker or their manager. Their details should be on any letters you’ve been sent. You can make a complaint either on the phone or in writing. If it’s over the phone you may want to make some notes of the call, who you spoke to, and the time and date; in case you need to take the complaint further.

You should get a response within 15 days. If you are not satisfied with the response, you can continue with the formal complaints process.

Stage 1: Complain to the Complaints Resolution Team

If your issue hasn’t been resolved to your satisfaction, or you have been kept waiting for more than 15 days you can contact the Complaints Resolution Team. This formally begins the complaints procedure.

You should receive a response within two days and they should either resolve your issue, or agree how it should be resolved within 15 days. If they think it will take longer than 15 days they should agree a timetable with you.

Stage 2: Complain to the Complaints Review Team

If your issue has still not been resolved, or you’ve been waiting for an unreasonable amount of time you can contact the Complaints Review Team, or ask the Complaints Resolution Team to pass on your complaint.

You should receive a response within two days and they should either resolve your issue, or agree how it needs to be resolved within 15 days. If they think it will take longer than 15 days they should agree a timetable with you.

What should happen?

During the formal complaints procedure the agency should:

  • Acknowledge your complaint within two days of receiving it
  • Deal with you in a professional and polite way
  • Take your complaint seriously and keep it confidential
  • Put right any mistakes as soon as possible
  • Tell you, within 15 days, the outcome or what progress they’re making.

If they think they have made a mistake they should:

  • Apologise
  • Explain what went wrong and why
  • Make the changes that put it right.

Still not resolved?
Take your complaint further

You can pursue the following options.

Complain to your MP

If you feel that you’re not getting anywhere with the Child Support Agency you can ask your MP to take it up on your behalf. It can be a way to fast track your issue as the CSA have a special unit to deal with correspondence from MPs. It also helps your MP to understand how the CSA is performing.

You can find out how to contact your local MP on the British Parliament website.

Independent case examiner

The independent case examiner is not part of the CSA and can give an independent view on your case. You can’t contact the service unless you have been through the complaints process and not had a satisfactory outcome. You’ll need to contact them within six months of receiving your final reply from the CSA. You can ask your MP to help you with the complaints process.

The independent case examiner should suggest ways an agreement can be reached, and should make recommendations about what should be done to resolve your complaint.

Parliamentary and health service ombudsman

The ombudsman is the final stage in the complaints process and is ultimately responsible for complaints about the Child Support Agency. You can only take your case to the ombudsman through your MP – you can’t approach them directly. Before taking your complaint to the ombudsman you will be expected to have gone through the full complaints process, including the independent case examiner.

Getting compensation

It might be possible to get compensation from the CSA in some circumstances. There isn’t a legal right to compensation, and it’s likely you would need to push for it. Here are some examples of when you could be entitled to compensation:

  • There have been significant delays in issuing forms, making calculations or reviewing liability
  • There have been delays or errors in enforcing your payments
  • Delays in passing on your money
  • You have lost out financially – for example received bank charges because of a CSA mistake
  • You’ve suffered gross inconvenience, embarrassment, breach of your confidentiality or severe distress.

Consolatory payments

These are small payments that can be made if the CSA has caused you serious inconvenience because they have repeatedly made mistakes. They can also be made if you have been caused severe embarrassment or humiliation, or your health has been affected. You don’t necessarily have to have lost out financially.

You can get more details on how the CSA consider making a compensation payment or consolatory payment in the Compensation for poor service: staff guide available on gov.uk.

If you live in Scotland

Our partner organisation, One Parent Families Scotland, offers advice to single parents living in Scotland, on a wide range of issues.

One Parent Families Scotland

More information on child maintenance

Browse our site to find out more information about child maintenance issues, including how to challenge your maintenance calculation and how to enforce payments.

Challenging your calculation Enforcing payments

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