CMS0011

 

Written evidence submitted by anonymously

 

whether the Department (DWP/CMS) effectively managed the wind-down of the previous CSA schemes.

whether the CMS is achieving its objectives; and

whether the Department manages its resources effectively to deliver a high-quality service through the CMS.

 

Summary,

I am writing as a private individual but the evidence I am presenting & the questions it raises affects not only myself but also some 50,000 former paying parents under the “winding down” of CSA 1991 & 2003 Schemes which has not been effectively managed nor in a way that represents Value For Money.

It has been “achieved,” such as it has, by deliberately unlawfully exceeding the jurisdiction, authority, powers & remit of the CMS by breaking the 1991 Child Support Act, the Human rights Act & GDPR with blatant bias & discrimination that certainly contravenes the Equality Act

These Schemes together amassed nearly £4billion “uncollected balances” a significant proportion, perhaps up to 80% of them were attributable to gross corporate negligence by the CSA in administering the schemes as well as well documented systems failures & staff errors.

They cannot be proven or shown to be the result of non-payment by NRP’s & cannot be substantiated, without detailed examination, as being correct or genuinely owed by anyone to anybody to the extent that the C&AG & the NAO consider them to be “false accounting” & so uncollectible unless proven.

They are in many instances not, as CMS would have you believe, “arrears of payments by NRP’s” but are sums that the CSA failed, for many reasons over two decades ago, to demand payment of or to collect prior to “statutory closure”

The CMS will tell you that they are “legally owed” & so collectible by them, if necessary, by the use of their statutory powers of enforcement, however it is fundamental in law that no one but no one is “legally liable” for or “obliged” to pay any alleged debt that cannot be proven to be correctly calculated or properly demanded.

Billions of pounds of alleged unpaid child maintenance debt, that remained from the previous CSA schemes has been written off since 2018 by the Department in its wind-down of the previous CSA schemes but alongside this it has “selected” just some 50,000 cases out of some 650,000 to pursue & enforce.

It is evidence of the mismanagement, under the guise of “Value for Money,” of these specific 50,000 cases where monies are currently being unlawfully taken (£39.6 million 2020/21 £45.3 million 2019/20) by what amounts to fraud that I would bring to the attention of the committee for them to question ************* Director CMG & her Senior management team about in depth.

 

All these 50,000 cases are statutorily closed under the 1991 Act there no longer being a “Qualifying child.” This means that they are no longer valid (without force or foundation as having been construed in law.)

 

Closure under the 1991 Act is absolute. There is no legislation extending the jurisdiction of the CSA beyond the cessation of there being a qualifying child

Nor that permits the “reopening” of them as an “active” case on the CMS 2012 Rules System.

 

The CSA then & the CMS now have no lawful jurisdiction or authority to exercise any of their powers of collection or enforcement in respect of any remaining uncollected balances after statutory closure neither do they have any client relationship with the former receiving parent or remit to act, at the taxpayers’ expense, as an unpaid debt collector on their behalf.

 

As these cases are no longer valid & null & void under the 1991 Act none of its provisions including Section 29 regarding the collection of “arrears” or Section 31 Administrative Deduction From Earnings Orders apply. Neither do those of the Child Support (management & Payment Of Arrears) Regulations 2009 nor the Child Support Management Of Payments & Arrears (Amendment) Regulations 2012 if, as with the majority of these cases, their closure dates are prior to “commencement dates” of these pieces of legislation which were not retrospective in their application.

 

The C&AG & the NAO’s Annual Report 2020/21 on the management by the DWP of the 1993 & 2003 Child Maintenance Schemes Client Funds Account is essential reading for members of the committee.

Its contents form the basis of my evidence.

The elements within it, contributed by the Department, namely the Foreword &

1) Background, 2) Performance during 2021/21, 4) Governance Statement, are highly illuminating, as to the management & policy considerations, of the CMS with regard to these “selected” cases under the leadership if ***********

They constitute, evidence & admission, of serious criminal law breaking by the department.

Firstly, under Foreword the Department admits (again) to the “misstating by the CSA of accumulated arrears owed by some (?) NRP’s reflecting inaccurate assessments & incorrect processing since the inception of the statutory Schemes.”

It says of this failing “given the limited future life of the 1993/2003 schemes making a material difference to these issues could not be justified on a “value for money basis.”

It states that “the Department HAS NOT carried out a wholesale review & recalculation of individual cases.” It also states, “the Department has assessed that it is not VFM to review & correct previously MATERIALY incorrect cases.”

 

Elsewhere in the report it categorically states that the Department WILL NOT investigate these cases, (not even in the face of evidenced representations/complaints of inaccurate incorrect assessments it turns out) but WILL seek payment of the misstated amount in full & “if payment is not forthcoming” enforcement powers WILL be used. They say to “aid compliance.” I say simply take it right or wrong without the option!

 

Excuse me but VFM or not, is to deny the right to complain & to be heard, not a breach of basic Human Rights & to coerce payment under threat or simply take money that is known not to be owed no longer theft by FRAUD?

 

Under 1 Background

The Department sets out the “selection process” for collection rather than “write off.”

You will note that the “primary selection” is abdicated/delegated by the CMS, in whom the authority to do so is actually vested, being placed firmly in the hands of the former receiving parent to each case.

To their everlasting credit the vast majority 83% declined the opportunity but some 14.5% of them were sufficiently “motivated,” by the approach & the potential “windfall” it offered, to seek collection.

You will further note that, though there was, to satisfy considerations of “equality,” a parallel “right of representation” by former paying parents if the believed the quoted balance to be incorrect no mention of it is made.

This is because CMS policy was, as stated, to ignore & not investigate representations against collection on the grounds that the balances were incorrect. In fact probably just between 150 & 200 cases maybe 0.5 % were written off on representations made by any of the 50,000 former paying parents involved compared to the 14.5% of those made by former RP’s that were accepted & acted upon.

This is a measure of just how biased & discriminatory the process was in favour of former RP’s.

 

The only ways that that any Selection could have been made, without bias & discrimination & with any degree of equality or lawfulness under the Equality Act would have been to investigate all cases & to pursue only those cases proven to be correct or either collect all of them or write all of them off!
This would not have suited CMS’s operational policy so they put up a smokescreen in the form of VOM to conceal what was/is a grossly biased  discriminatory & intrinsically unlawful selection process.

 

Developing & implementing the Write Off Scheme (& it’s associated parallel illegal & fraudulent collection & enforcement element) might have been less costly than “proving or discrediting” all the accounts but is, in itself, a costly process requiring considerable correspondence & processing time.

However the biggest single cost probably lies in it having put back the ability to close down the CSA systems by 3 to 4 years which if memory serves me correctly were estimated, in the Consultation Document for the “New Compliance & Arrears Policy in 2017, to be costing £12million annually to service & maintain so to 2020/21 possibly £40 million to £50 million in unnecessary costs.

 

Under 4 Governance Statement at 4.2.3 Information security.

It is admitted that these “historic CSA systems” were not compliant with either GDPR, effective 25th May 2018 & retained in domestic law as the UK GDPR or the Data Protection Act 2018

This is of course not quite truthful. “IT Systems” cannot, in themselves, be “non compliant” it is the personal data retained & processed on them that is not compliant under GDPR.

The Department, like all instruments of Government has blanket immunity to GDPR under Article 17 “The Right To Erasure” 3(b) & Article 29 “Processing Under The Authority Of The Controller Or Processor”

3) “Paragraphs 1 and 2” (the right to erasure) “shall not apply to the extent that processing is necessary:

a) for exercising the right of freedom of expression and information;

b) for compliance with a legal obligation which requires processing by Union or Member State law to which the controller is subject or for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller;”

ie a Departmental Statutory Duty & Obligation.

This admission, that the personal data held & processed on these systems in respect of closed historic former CSA cases did not comply with GDPR, can only confirm, that as I have said above, the Department holds no Statutory duty or obligation in respect of them so no jurisdiction, authority, powers or remit in relation to them!

If this was not the case then there would have been no need or point, under GDPR, to make any “significant investment in updating the CSA systems to reach GDPR standards” as, but for this, they would be exempt from its provisions.

 

This, together with the statement “instead the Department continued with the approach outlined in the Compliance & Arrears Strategy,” is also an admission, that with the knowledge, agreement or connivance of the Information Commissioners Office, the Department continued to knowingly unlawfully hold “personal data,” relating to these closed former CSA cases for which it had no statutory duty or obligation under GDPR, continuing to further “process” it, for the purposes of unlawful collection & enforcement, from the commencement of GDPR 25th May 2018, when it should have been erased, until the end of 2020 when the CSA systems were finally decommissioned.

 

4.2.4 The Child Maintenance Compliance & Arrears Strategy.

Please note that this “strategy/policy” came into force in December 2018 7 months after the

commencement of GDPR so could not have influenced any decision on GDPR compliance

It coincided with the powers to unilaterally write off uncollected balances granted under the Child Support (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2018/19 but forms no part of that legislation it is “operational policy” but not “law.”

It replaces a previous strategy that had been in place for many years. There is no element of retrospectivity in it & again it cannot be applied to closed cases without further legislation to extend the jurisdiction of CMS or permit the reopening of cases without a qualifying child which I doubt could, be itself, be made retrospective.

It cannot legally “drive” continuing proactive management of closed CSA cases on the CMS 2012 Rules system.

 

To return to 4.2.3 & GDPR: -

The Department claims that “functionality has been introduced to the CMS 2012 Rules system to delete data from closed cases (ie where statutory Departmental duty & obligation is ended so there is no operational requirement to retain data) within 14 months

It claims that “as a result both CMS & former closed CSA cases “hosted” (note the careful avoidance of saying “open”) on the 2012 system are now GDPR compliant.”

This is a lie. If these cases were not GDPR compliant, as to the holding & further processing on the CSA systems from which they originate, then transferring them to the CMS system cannot make them so, on it, without legislation to reopen them.

They are already closed. Will the CMS system eventually close them again?

No it won’t as they are not held on it as current liability & therefore open cases merely unlawfully “hosted.” They should not be there nor should they be in any way active. They are still, whatever the CMS might claim, not GDPR compliant & the current continued processing of them continues to be unlawful!

 

Conclusions.

The effort to wind down the CSA & close its systems down started in earnest in December 2018 with the granting of the power to write off uncollected balances.

It is now in 2022 still ongoing & is likely to take a further 4 to 5 years before all former CSA cases are, albeit unlawfully by fraud, removed from the CMS System.

The present incumbent of the position of DWP Director of GMG ******* & her senior management team have been & continue to be responsible for it.

On her appointment ********************** had, with the noncompliance, of the cases involved, with GDPR & the upcoming power of “write off,” a golden opportunity to put a speedy, cost-effective end to this decades old problem by simply writing them all off.

I believe that because of her own personal ambition to collect something, anything, of these

balances, that the NAO & others believed to be uncollectable, whatever the propriety or cost of doing so, she passed it up in favour, of continuing inappropriately, with the new Compliance & arrears strategy.

In doing so she & her Senior Management Team oversaw, approved & implemented a partial write off scheme, that that includes a highly biased & discriminatory selection process that breaks Human Rights & Equality legislation by a country mile, to exceed her departmental jurisdiction, whilst also ignoring & contravening GDPR by continuing to inappropriately hold personal data on & continuing to process such cases, in fraudulently collecting, without statutory authority or remit, 50,000 cases just 7.7% of the total 650,000 cases held.

These cases have an average balance of £1500 just £500 over the £1000 maximum to qualify for automatic write off.

At best it was a serious error of judgment at worst a negligent abuse of her public office that epitomises all that is wrong with the CMS

The final winding up of the historic CSA cases will of be the end of the problem of uncollected balances. Already since 2012 the CMS has accumulated £500million of them that will ultimately have to be dealt with along with potentially increased levels of unavoidable child support debt, as a result of CMS’s mishandling of covid & post covid changes to income & expenditure that will impact upon the “ability to pay” (a matter of little concern to CMS under *************) on the part of paying parents.

There is a statistical analysis, of paying parent involvement with CMS, that strongly suggests that it is currently responsible for 3 deaths a day, by way of suicide by males particularly “Service Veterans” suffering from PTSD.

If nothing is done it can, under current circumstances post Covid, only get worse going forward & you should bear in mind that most of the “victims” of *************** fraudulent collection of the mostly completely fictitious historic CSA uncollected balances are now elderly retired & vulnerable as pensioners living on fixed incomes on the margins of poverty. Many face being unable to cope with the rising costs of living & keeping themselves warm or even, because they cannot afford to maintain them, loosing their homes & independence in the face of the amounts being demanded or taken from them by way of DEO’s on the private pensions they made considerable sacrifices to pay for. They are not, like ordinary working people, not bottomless pits as CMS under ************ seems to think.
Does parliament & the Public Accounts Committee want to see homeless pensioners dying on the streets?

It is, in this day & age, a national disgrace to paraphrase Winston Churchill “in the name of God she they & it must go!”

Going forward the only way, compliant with GDPR, that they will be lawfully recoverable without legislation, extending the jurisdiction of the CMS & removing the need for a qualifying child, is under the authority of the Courts, not the CMS.

All cases need to be individually proactively considered & micromanaged to minimise debt levels & ensure that, if necessary, this authority is in place before statutory closure.

This requires resources that the CMS does not have partly of course because it now has 50,000 cases, that it shouldn’t be involved with under the law relating to yesterday’s children, using up those resources that should be benefiting children now.

This is not, effective management or use, of its available resources. They need to be ended & removed now.

The necessary reforms will not, under the present leadership & management, be forthcoming internally from within CMS.

It is up to Parliament, through this Public Accounts committee, to censure ************ & replace her & her Senior Management Team with someone who has the ability, to see the “bigger picture” with regards to the impact its failings have upon ordinary working people as well as VFM & cost to the taxpayer whilst also having the capability to end & dismantle the unlawful process the present regime have taken so long to create at such enormous cost with so little return.

If not CMS will forever remain a drain on the public purse & an impediment to eliminating child poverty in the UK.

In a recent letter to me ******** attempted to liken the CMS to “the Banks & Building Societies.” Well, they take in money & pay it out but there the analogy ends. The CMS is more akin to unregulated wheel clampers & you know how they are regarded by the voting public!

Imagine, if you can, the public reaction if the banks & building societies conducted their business, as the CMS does under ******** leadership, by way of theft by fraud & a general complete disregard for the Law.

It is perhaps the only thing that both paying & receiving parents agree upon that the CMS has lost its way & is no longer “fit for purpose.” It is most certainly not achieving any of its objectives. I am not sure, that under ********, it even recognises what those objectives are. It appears to exist just for its own continuance with no element of “service”

The whole issue of “State involvement” in mandatory child support urgently needs to be fundamentally addressed & reassessed.

 

March 2022