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OPINION: Maintenance enforcement doing terrible job


For most, the auditor general’s report could be considered bedtime reading.

But if you are a single parent receiving child support through the office of maintenance enforcement, it could very well give you nightmares. And it probably does.

Maintenance enforcement is the arm of government that is supposed to ensure parents receive their child support payments. But it’s doing a terrible job, as many single parents already know.

The auditor general reported there is more than $10 million in arrears owing to parents (really their children) and not much is being done about it. That shows a shocking lack of concern for the children of P.E.I.

There are all kinds of things that could be done, but that doesn’t seem to be the way that office works.

It can cancel driver’s licences, garnishee wages, cancel federal licences and seize properties. But it doesn’t seem to be doing much of that at all. It all seems to depend on what officer you get, something a parent has no choice in.

According to the auditor general, one officer doesn’t follow any of those rules at all. As for cancelling drivers’ licences, only one of the officers has access to the database. The officer uses it to find addresses, not cancel driver’s licences.

The office can also intercept income tax returns, but the auditor general found in the cases it looked at, there was very little done there at all.

Most disturbing, the auditor looked at 19 cases that were in arrears. In nine of those cases, there was nothing done by the office for six months or more. In five of them, there was nothing done for a full year.

The auditor also found the office reduced arrears payments. In one case, it was reduced by $186,000. In another case, the amount was reduced by $58,000 with no explanation as to why.

Apparently, it’s all up to the enforcement officer. Heaven help the parent who gets the slack one.

The office has obviously become a bureaucracy, with no real concern for helping parents support their children. If it did, it would clean up the $10 million in arrears with the tools it already has at its disposal. It just has to use them, but for some reason, it doesn’t want to.

And what can a parent do about this? Nothing. They have to depend on the goodwill of the maintenance enforcement office.

Why should we care? Because many of the parents who rely on maintenance enforcement are struggling mightily. Many end up on welfare. And their children are going hungry.

If we want to raise an educated, respectful, socially conscious generation, we must ensure our children are healthy and looked after.

This office, which is tasked with applying court orders on child support, is failing in its mission. And there’s no reason for that at all. The tools are all there, easy to use, easy to enforce. They have to start using them.

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