Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Government is currently discussing ways and means of tackling the issue where some fathers in the community refuse to financially take care of their children.
Speaking on the issue in the House of Assembly last evening, September 3, Hon. Myron Walwyn said one of the suggestions that can be examined is to garnish those fathers' salaries, since sending them to prison cannot solve the problem.
"Government started to discuss it, but it is something that we need to look at and address as a matter of urgency. Perhaps one of the suggestions would be to garnish wages. Funny enough, some of the same people who don't pay child support, they are working; I see them working, some of them have steady jobs, they get little adhoc jobs here and there. There has to be a mechanism in place where you can garnish those wages if it's a steady job or you are getting a job with Government and we garnish those wages to make sure the monies go where it needs to go," the Minister stated last evening.
He went on to make the point about sending the men to prison not being the answer, noting that when they go to prison, in some cases, the monies are not paid but they are afforded three meals and snacks.
"...If you are placed in prison, they cannot hold you indefinitely, they have to let you out at some point whether you pay the money or not. But if you cannot pay the money and you are out, the money is still there and more would have added on since you were in prison. So you really haven't done anything at all, the problem is still there. And then they go up to Balsum Ghut get breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack; then they have to use water, electricity, the cost to the Government. So this seems to me to be something where nobody wins and so I know we have to look at it," he stated.
The Minister told the House that there is also the disadvantage aspect when the father is locked up, as it has the potential of creating an irreparable rift between the father and child.
"It has the potential to do that and I have seen evidence of that happening...Father holding a particular malice towards the child or mother for sending them to Balsum Ghut," he asserted.
Minister Walwyn, who is also an At-Large Representative, said he is cognizant that some persons may not agree with his position and encouraged that society must show disdain for such conduct by fathers.
"I know some persons may disagree with me and they may be right, but we have to start to discuss things so that we can come to a solution that works for everybody...I would start out by saying that I am not supporting or condoning any father who is not feeding his child or children...And society must continue to show its disdain for that kind of conduct. If you bring children into the world, it is your responsibility to take good care of your children and feed your children and nobody is supposed to be running behind you for you do what you are supposed to do," the At Large Representative stated.
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Minister Walwyn is not the first Legislator to raise the issue. While serving as Minister for Communications and Works under the former Government, Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser had stated he is against sending the fathers to jail, but rather for their salaries to be garnished.
"Stiffer legislation has to be put in place to deal with these people. I don't necessarily agree with locking them up because a guy in prison cannot feed his child, but we have got to find ways to get straight to his pocketbook. Garnishing salaries should be mandatory and if the employer does not comply, you garnish his salary or her salary, but we cannot have a society where people are walking around saying that their child is not being fed, children going back to school; this is abuse, it's domestic in nature," Hon. Fraser stated in September of last year in the House of Assembly.
The Third District Representative had stated that they cannot any longer continue to tolerate that type of behavior in the society, noting that they are the law makers and were elected to make a difference.
"And if we don't address these issues, this place is heading into hell in a hand basket. You cannot have young children growing up not knowing who their parents are and who they father is, living in poverty. When they grow up they will resort to crime...What do you say about a deadbeat dad that does not support his children or child; isn't that indeed abuse...It is domestic in nature...Not buying uniforms, no lunch; is there another name for it...?" Hon. Fraser had questioned.