Lashley: Need for overhaul of family support system

estimates2013stephenlashleySystems and agencies involved in the management of child maintenance issues and matters concerning the family are in urgent need of improvement.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, today proposed the establishment of a “special enforcement office” at the magistrate’s court level, in addition to fine tuning the court process office, marshal service, and state entities like the Probation and Welfare departments as part of an overall programme of improvements.

Speaking during debate on amendments to the Family Law Act in the House of Assembly today, the Christ Church West Central MP said such changes were necessary to meet the changing needs of the Barbadian family while obviating challenges of the organisations which offered them relief.

This included how child support was paid to the court of final recipients.

“I feel that there is no divide as it relates to the question of maintenance and enforcement of maintenance at the magistrate’s court level and that we do need to move towards a more efficacious

system as to how maintenance is addressed at the magistrate’s court level,” the minister said.

“…I feel that given the percentage of our population who are largely impacted on in relation to child maintenance, and the extent to which those matters are largely the purview in my view of the magistrate’s court, that perhaps we may very well have to look very seriously at a system of perhaps a special enforcement office and a special collection office within the domain of the magistrate’s court to deal with this issue of collection of maintenance.”

Lashley said he also believed there was a need for clarity within the island’s maintenance laws to make it clear “that each parent of a child is to the extent of their financially ability … required to be responsible for maintenance”.

“I think that what has to happen is that has now to be enforced more at the operational level so that it is clear that both the father and the mother are responsible to the extent of their means for the maintenance of the children,” he said.

The official noted that beyond the court’s role it was also important to focus on how such issues were dealt with by agencies and supporting systems including the Probation and Welfare Departments, and Child Care Board.

“I think down the road, certainly our next order of business, must be to fine tune how these supporting agencies function, and how they relate and tie in to this business of creating the kind of legislative framework to create a more robust and modern family law jurisdiction within Barbados,” he said.

“To a large extent particularly when you are talking about the marshal’s office, the court process office, we have to reconstruct that and if it is not working we have to find ways in which to either adopt new systems to reform the court process office, and if necessary to create special units whose business it is to have trained people who will do the work that is assigned for them to do.” (SC)

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