Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Roosevelt Skerrit has announced that government will address the issue of delinquent fathers in the months ahead and will get tough on them.
Speaking at the presenting the 2016/2017 National Budget at the First Meeting of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament under the Commonwealth of Dominica Constitution on Tuesday, he said he has one simple philosophy in the matter, “pay up or go up.”
According to Skerrit, the two most vulnerable groups in the society are seniors and infants and many infants are born to single mothers who themselves have challenges because many fathers are not “manning up” to their responsibilities.
“The issue of delinquent fathers is one that I will address and deal with in the months ahead,” he said. “I hereby give early warning to those men who are able, but who are not taking proper care of their children, that their happy-go-lucky days are coming to an end, very soon.”
He said further that a Maintenance Bill will be brought before the Parliament for consideration before the end of 2016.
“But that is an issue for another time, most likely in this same place. On this occasion, I believe, as a nation, there are certain realities we must confront. Single parenting is real. We cannot wish it away. We want, however, as a Government, to do something for single mothers, in particular,” he stated.
Skerrit revealed that he was reliably informed that a significant percent of the income of single parents is devoted to health care for their children.
“These women, being of childbearing age, are also of working age,” he noted.
Skerrit indicated that he is aware that, especially during the post-Erika period, some single parents have been experiencing some challenges.
“I speak here of the women employed in the hotel and tourism sectors, in the distributive trades and small businesses. Their incomes are relatively low and taking care of the health and other needs of a child is an added responsibility that becomes a burden when fathers are not pulling their weight,” he explained. “Immediately upon passage of this Budget, Madam Speaker, Government will discuss with the Dominica Social Security to determine how an initial installment of $5.0-million can be set aside and utilized in the creation and administration of a pilot health insurance facility for these workers and their children.”
Furthermore, Skerrit said his contention is that “we cannot just speak about these things and never attempt them. We have to start somewhere and perfect the service as we go along.”
He revealed that effective 1st January 2017, mothers of children, three years and under and all expectant mothers in Dominica, will be eligible to register with the pilot health insurance service to have up to 80 percent of all medical bills associated with the care of their unborn, newborn and infant, paid by the Service.
“Madam Speaker, there are countries in this region and elsewhere that have implemented National Health Insurance Programmes. I do not believe it is beyond our capacity to create a facility that can first serve the needs of young mothers and mothers to be, and ultimately the needs of all Dominicans,” the Prime Minister remarked.