Category Archives: CSA

Already submitted my self-assessment – no mad rush this year

It’s usually about this time of year that I start thinking about filling in my tax return and submitting it online. Of course, I wouldn’t actually do it until January, but I’d start thinking about it now. When you complete your self-assessment and file it online you have until January 31st to complete it, file it and pay it – and last year I used every last second of that allowed time.

However, this year – or rather next year, as January is next year – I won’t have that last minute rush, that awful January weekend of going through bank statements and credit card statements, and that panic over how I can pay on time and not incur any penalties.

So what do we owe to this unrivalled and unprecedented show of organisation on my part? Is it because I’m using an accountant who has whipped me into shape with regards to my finances? Is because I’m using an online accountancy firm that has carefully gone through all of my receipts in plenty of time?

No, it’s because the Child Support Agency wanted to see my accounts for the last financial year, 2009-2010, forcing me to complete my return early. When I met with them in August they harped on about wanting to see my accounts, and wanting to know what each payment into my account was for over a four or five month period. Then, after my completing my self-assessment, filing my return and sending it to the CSA – they changed their mind and instead said they just wanted my return for 2008-2009, even though none of the payments they had asked about were for this time period.

I can’t complain too much. Their incompetence has forced me to file my tax return nice and early, meaning I don’t have any last minute rush in January – and I know exactly what I need to pay (which of course I’m still leaving to the last minute, you don’t pay a bill before you have to).

Thanks CSA – you’ve done something useful, even if it was by accident and it was through your own special brand of disorganisation and incompetence.

CSA staff sacked for downloading porn

If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t get through to the Child Support Agency when you phone up, or why their computer systems continually crash and lose your information, it’s because their staff have been accesses pornography at work. A recent news story from The Guardian revealed that four staff members at the Child Support Agency have recently been sacked for, among other things, looking at pornography when they should have been doing their jobs.

The imbecilic former staff members of the CSA were also wasting tax payers’ money by doing their shopping online with their computers in work time, and downloading files.

In addition to the sackings, another three staff members of the CSA (now known as the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission – CMEC) were also disciplined for their abuse of the computers.

The frightening thing is that none of this information would have come to light had it not been for a Freedom of Information request – which any person is able to make at any time. The FOI was made by the Internet security company Proofpoint. Their CEO, Gary Steele, commented:

“The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission deals with extremely sensitive issues and data about family issues, and it is worrying that staff have been able to access unauthorised sites.

“Apart from the fact they should be doing their work and not logging on to completely inappropriate sites, these employees are risking the integrity of their office computer network.”

CMEC responded to the FOI request by stating:

“Commissions’ employees are regularly reminded of the rules regarding access to the internet sites.

“Every time an individual logs on to their computer system, he or she is prompted to read and accept the terms of the commission’s electronic media policy.”

A spokesperson for CMEC tried to play down the incident, claiming that few disciplinary measures are taken.

“We employ almost 9,000 people, and the disciplinary record speaks for itself.”

Of course, without the FOI from Proofpoint, we wouldn’t have known about this one, so we don’t know how many other incidents there are of the CSA’s staff downloading porn and abusing the computer systems.

Only recently, one CSA employee from their Belfast offices, Jamie Smith, made comments to fathers on a Facebook page that he would happily pay them all to kill themselves. We have learned since then that Jamie Smith has been dealt with internally, but the CSA would not comment as to what punishment had befallen him.

The CSA is to be axed next year amid the new coalition government’s many spending cuts.

CSA worker wants fathers to kill themselves

The website CSAhell.com featured a story on its Facebook page today about a New Fathers For Justice protest outside the CSA offices in Dudley. The protest saw fathers dressed up as various superheroes, including the Pope. There was also a mother there as Wonder Woman – just in case anyone thought NF4J was an exclusively male domain.

CSA-Demo-in-Dudley

What is interesting however is the comments this post attracted on the Facebook page, where many people offered their support for the fathers in their protest. One person though, Jamie Smith, wrote the following scathing insult about the New Fathers 4 Justice:

“what a joke – a load of blokes who cudnt keep their pants on and expect to get away without paying. Id pay some of them to jump off some ver tall buildings with their batman suits on – then we’ll see how man they are lol”

Jamie Smith's comments
Jamie Smith's comments

Jamie Smith is insinuating that all of the fathers mentioned in the story refuse to pay any maintenance to their children, and he’s suggesting that they all commit suicide by throwing themselves off the roof of a building, with his blessing.

This seems very uncalled for, but Jamie Smith has made similar comments on the Facebook page before about fathers and their dealings with the CSA. So what does Jamie do for a living? He works for the Child Support Agency of course – it says so on his profile page.

This CSA worker has posted on a public page, where people go to get advice about the CSA, his views on how the fathers in question should kill themselves, and that he’d even pay them to do it. Jamie is typical of the sort of person working for the CSA which, in itself, should tell you all you need to know about the values of the organisation.

Hopefully the CSA will take action against Jamie Smith and other members of its staff who choose to insult already emotionally traumatised people via the Internet.

CSA want an interview, but won’t speak to me

I received a letter this morning from the CSA asking me to attend an interview next week at the local job centre. This could be a problem, because I work and can’t attend at such short notice. I called the number on the letter and spoke to a woman, in Chester. When I gave my name she immediately knew who I was and told me she couldn’t speak to me, as I was to be contacted by letter only, and then she hung up on me.

What should I do now? I can’t attend the interview next Thursday as I’ll be in work, unless I manage to move some days around at very short notice. Even if I send a letter back to the CSA (as the woman said I should do) I can’t print one and send it until Monday when I’m next in the office, so they won’t get that until Wednesday, and the interview is Thursday!

Anyhow – listen to the call and see what you think.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

CSAhell.com on local radio

Last week I appeared on local radio here in the North West talking about the website CSAhell.com, and how it has helped people dealing with the Child Support Agency. I was approached for the radio talk show because the researchers found the website in Google when they searched for phrases such as ‘CSA Advice’, ‘CSA Mistakes’ and even ‘Child Support Agency’ – proving how SEO can not only benefit your website’s rankings and traffic, but how it can also lead to offsite promotion such as local radio.

I recorded the segment and have uploaded it as a podcast, but must apologise in advance for the poor sound quality and additional commentary because the program I used to record it also recorded ambient sound from within the room.

Very useful!

Anyhow, have a listen and do let me know what you think.

Flakelet.com

I’ve been running various websites online now for, well, forever really. I think it goes back to 1998 somewhere, my memory fails me. The point is that I’m fairly web savvy and I know when a website looks suspect.

Due to running so many websites I’ve also had numerous emails over the years from affiliate networks, potential sponsors and various companies who have wanted me to sign up or advertise their products.

Many of which are genuine affiliate networks, many of which are not.

Again, I feel I’m pretty good at telling which are the genuine ones, and which are the spam emails destined for the deleted items folder. Yesterday however I had one email that I just couldn’t bring myself to delete, so blasé was it about its ‘free’ service to me.

Have a read of this:

From: Weng Lopez
Subject: Re: CSA Hell: Re: your site, www.csahell.com

Hi,

I just want you to know that your site meets our criteria and we would like to sponsor it. The membership is free but only the top-notch sites are allowed.

What’s in it for you:

– Placement in an exclusive “Best of Content-Oriented Web sites” directory.
– Free content for your site, written around your topics by our in-house writers.
– Promotion of your site across our networks of 2,000+ of blogs.
– Marketing tools developed exclusively for our members to help you drive more traffic.
– Expert advice on search engine optimization (SEO), content development, monetization, conversions, etc. to make the most of what you’ve got.
– Participation in our community support forums.
– …and more.

Note that none of these benefits are available to non-members, it is an invitation-only community for webmasters. So, if any of the above appeals to you and if you’d like an invitation, please let me know. I will send you more details.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best regards,

Weng Lopez
weng.lopez@mikino.com
www.flakelet.com

I so nearly deleted it… but instead felt a compelling urge to reply, especially after I had a quick look at their website and saw what a dodgy Facebook knockoff it was.

Here is what I wrote:

So, if I understand this correctly – you want to place content on my site, with links to your sponsors, without paying me for it and have advertised this as being a free service to me?

I can see what you get out of it – websites willing to post your content promoting your sponsors, but I don’t seem to get anything out of it all. Your website seems to be using the same design as Facebook (I’m sure that’s a coincidence) and has no PR, meaning it’s fairly new or has been penalised.

In addition, should I place your content on my website I would be penalised by Google for duplicate content AND for selling links, even though I wouldn’t actually have received any money for them.

Perhaps I’ve missed something? Do let me know if I have.

Regards
Darren

I doubt I’ll get a reply back – but seriously, if anyone gets an email from these jokers, the ‘free’ membership that allows you to promote their clients without any charge to yourself isn’t the best deal you’ll find online.

Watchdog has been ruined by the BBC

Those who know me will know that I love a good complaint. I’m renowned for it. Because of this, I’m a fan of BBC Watchdog. I often watch the show and get irate at the companies they’re exposing for their unethical practices and poor customer service.

Indeed, I like to perform my own exposes of companies, such as those that have often annoyed me like the CSA, BT and Direct Line, or companies that have the misfortune of having annoyed me just the once and lived to regret it forever, such as Home Delivery Network and Chester Council.

I’m a fan of Watchdog’s work, so much so that I even aided them with their quest to investigate Providence Properties (a company that didn’t annoy me, but I picked up the torch nonetheless).

However, this new series of Watchdog, which started last night, will have companies like Providence Properties popping the champagne corks. What was once a hard hitting consumer affairs show has been diluted into nothing more than a BBC version of Loose Women.

Did we need to see Anne Robinson and Gabby Roslin harping on about pushchairs? Did we have to watch a 10 minute video showing how many bags you can hang on the back of them before they topple over, despite even the voiceover admitting that the manufacturers tell you not to do it? And what purpose did strapping the buggies onto a bucking bronco and seeing how long it took to launch the doll from them actually serve?

None, none whatsoever.

They then complained about Virgin Media. Excellent, as a customer of Virgin Media I’ve had my share of complaints with them. However, complaining that Virgin Media make it difficult to sort out someone’s account after they’d died isn’t really anything to complain about. People would soon complain if it were made easy, then anyone could phone up and claim to be a relative, stating the account holder had died and they wanted all of the documents and account credit transferred to them.

Virgin Media acted responsibly.

I can’t believe I’m saying all of this, but it gets worse.

The report on sunbeds was completely redundant. It’s not illegal for under 18s to use them, so none of the health clubs were breaking the law. What’s the problem?

Just why has the show been merged with Rogue Traders? I’m not a fan of Rogue Traders because I believe the guy hosting it, Matt Allwright, is out of his depth, as he showed again. He’s in the perfect position to really get people’s back up yet seems to act like a petulant clown. If you want to see how to annoy people, read this website, it’s all there.

Matt Allwright followed some salesman from Craftmatic beds, claiming his technique of making three phone calls to the office was hard sell, and his claiming that the bed will make you look twenty years younger was unscrupulous. OK, if you believe that using a bed makes you look twenty years younger you deserve to be conned, and making several calls to the office to get ‘discounts’ for the client is a sales technique. It might not be pleasant, but salesman generally aren’t.

He hadn’t done anything wrong. Then when the Matt Allwright tried to crash the sales conference and was barred from entry he started acting like a child, ordering the man behind not to trap him in the door or it would be assault.

You’re not supposed to be getting worked up mate, they are!

He’s rubbish and the show has been ruined. Bring back Nicky Campbell and the decent format. If you want someone to do Rogue Traders properly, I’ll do it!