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St. Michael East MP Kenny Best

A Government backbencher is calling for the legislation governing the payment of child maintenance to be amended in the interest of fairness to fathers.

St. Michael East MP Kenny Best said as it stood, the Maintenance Act did not afford single fathers the opportunity to get maintenance from the mothers of their children.

Best, an attorney-at-law, made his comments in the House of Assembly this afternoon when members debated, and subsequently passed, a $400,000 supplementary resolution for the establishment of a child maintenance fund.

“I would like to see that we take into serious consideration urgent amendments to the Maintenance Act, which speaks and includes fathers because as it stands the Maintenance Act only allows single mothers,” Best said.

“We need to have a holistic approach to this whole system and ensure that … there be equity in the legislation because there are situations where fathers, as soon as the children are born, the mothers take off and the fathers … have to struggle and maintain things.

“We have a situation where mothers believe that ‘I want everything, all the money to pay mortgage, to buy clothes, to buy all the necessary things’ and it must come from the father,” he added.

The Democratic Labour Party member also wanted changes in the way social workers did their jobs in the context of child maintenance cases.

“I also would like to see that when the social workers are really carrying out their enquiries that their enquiries would be thorough and we also need more social workers because you have to wait too long to get a matter resolved and sometimes you get three and four adjournments,” he said.

“So when you look at this you need to have a holistic approach and look at all the necessary systems that clog into one to ensure that this system [works] because you can have the best intentions … but the implementation of the system effectively is the key to its success.”

With the establish of the new fund he also urged mothers to ensue their children were the beneficiaries of the state money.

“What I want to see happen [is] that when this money is dispersed and the mothers collect it that they understand that it is for their children and not for the hairdresser or the nail technicians and … make sure that the children that this money is designed for receive it,” the parliamentarian stated.

“I also want to see the persons who are administering the paying out of this money be humane and civilised to persons. No one knows what befalls them in life, today is for you and tomorrow is for me so when those mothers come to you crying, have a humane heart. Sometimes you have to go beyond the call of duty.” (SC)

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