EDITORIAL: New child fund welcome
Sat, October 27, 2012 - 12:00 AM
It is well documented that single mothers, in particular, have had to suffer for many years the indignity of delays in maintenance payments as a result of some fathers flouting court orders.
Against this background, Government’s move to implement a new child maintenance fund in Parliament this week has to be welcomed.
This fund will provide $50 per week for each child not supported financially by its father and will be administered through the Magistrates’ Court.
Applications to access the fund must be made three months after maintenance payment is due. Applicants may access the fund for four months, after which their circumstances will be reviewed. In a case of dire need, an applicant will be given access for another four months.
If the defaulting parent got a job during the four-month period, that parent would be ordered to reimburse the fund for any payments previously made.
Minister of Family Stephen Lashley, speaking in the House of Assembly as he introduced the resolution for $400 000 from the Consolidated Fund to set up the revolving fund, said it would ensure that relevant safety nets were put in place to safeguard the dignity of Barbadians and the interest of their children.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who first brought the idea of the fund to Parliament in 2009, stressed that it was necessary in these tough economic times to help mothers avoid frustrating and fruitless treks to the courts.
He said while one could argue about the amount being allotted, “when I last checked, 50 was more than zero”.
The Prime Minister rejected any suggestion that this was a quick fix to the problem of non-payment of child support by describing the fund as an experiment to be reviewed and fine-tuned with time. He said that methodologies were also being put in place to recoup whatever Government would pay on behalf of delinquent fathers.
The Prime Minister said, too, that the delay in bringing the measure was due to the complexity of the issue and the wide process of consultation with various groups, agencies and ministries.
The Opposition, while supporting the resolution, reasoned it was nothing more than a stop-gap measure being brought to the House “on the eve of an election”.
Our thoughts are that Government’s argument would have resonated more if they could have told Barbadians what percentage of women in the system regularly do not receive child money payments for three months or more, as well as how many children will be helped.
We wonder, too, if a study has been done to ascertain if the men who regularly do not pay have legitimate reasons, such as unemployment or disability, which have prevented them from living up to their responsibility.
Furthermore, we would like to hear whether there is any correlation between the non-payment of child support and the inability of fathers to visit or be allowed to spend time with their children. For years many men have complained about this and protested by not providing their cash as stipulated.
It would have been enlightening as well to hear why the payment system that has been in place has failed, and what specific measures are being instituted to ensure it works effectively.
That such details were absent during the debate left much to be desired.
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