Fathers get 3 square meals @ HMP while children starve- Hon Maduro-Caines
“Fathers up at Balsam Ghut (Her Majesty’s Prison) eating three square meals while his child is out here barely getting one meal. Everything is wrong with this picture, Madam Speaker,” Hon Maduro-Caines told the HoA on Thursday March 16, 2017.
The Sixth District Representative made that statement after rising to second the motion for the Child Maintenance and Access Act 2016, tabled in the HoA by Minister for Health and Social Development Honourable Ronnie W. Skelton (AL).
Put imprisoned fathers on work release
“My desire is that every father incarcerated for child support should be put on work release as early as possible in order to provide for their child or children until their past due bill is paid off and his accumulating bills addressed,” she further said as she stressed the system must put things in place where delinquent fathers can have accumulating bills addressed.
However, she mulled fairness stating that she is glad that the bill addresses the issue of ‘paternity proof’.
“In everything we do, fairness and balance should always be present. So I am additionally glad to see a section providing for proof of paternity being a must before maintenance is issued to anyone.”
This was supported also by Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Dr The Hon Kedrick D. Pickering (R7) who noted that the issue of paternity should be addressed before the matter reaches the court of law. He put this as a rhetorical question to his colleague in the HoA when he asked, “Shouldn’t paternity be determined before it actually gets into the judicial system?”
He opined that having the issue of paternity proof reach the open court can cause embarrassment, damage to reputation and unnecessary expenses for persons “when their lives are on display. The test comes back negative that the DNA doesn’t match.”
50 incarcerated for child maintenance in 2016
Meanwhile, Honourable Skelton revealed to the territory via the HoA that there have been some 1,800 child maintenance cases in the records of the Magistrate’s Courts of the VI (UK), which he said is the tip of the iceberg when compared to the number of children affected because of parental neglect.
According to Hon Skelton, fifty persons were incarcerated for child maintenance in 2016, six of which are still locked up. This he said points to the fact that the imprisonment of parents who neglect their child/ren financially in no way fixes the problem.
“The term of imprisonment does not distinguish the debt and arrears accumulated when the defaulter is in prison.” He said that the bill seeks to ensure that, in addition to their moral obligation, each parent has a clear legal obligation to provide for and to participate in the upbringing of their child regardless of gender, role and marital status.
There were many concerns raised about the Bill, however, it is not clear what were adequately addressed in Committee Stage. The Bill was subsequently passed in the House of Assembly.