Falklands : PUBLIC MEETING REPORT TUESDAY, 26 JULY 2011 (Part 1-b)
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 30.07.2011 (Article Archived on 13.08.2011)
I guess you people have given this quite a lot of thought because it affects you very directly. What other changes to the system had you thought about that might be possible that would assist?
PUBLIC MEETING REPORT TUESDAY, 26 JULY 2011
(Part 1-B: Cabbages and Run-Away Fathers)
By J. Brock (FINN)
A public meeting was held in the Court and Assembly Chambers of the Town hall at 1700hrs on Tuesday, 26 July 2011. Present were Councillors Edwards (EE), E, Edwards, R (RE), Short, G (GS), Halford, S (SH) and Summers, M (MS). The Hon Mr Gavin Short Chaired the meeting.
LB: If you donít have a garden Ė Iím lucky I do Ė
KB: Government doesnít allow it (on their property). And chickens and stuff like that
LB: Stuff that would save money. I mean thereís policies that could be changed.
EE: Iíll find out about that because I was under the impression that you could have a garden.
KB: No. You are not allowed chickens either Ė well, you are allowed a chicken but youíre only allowed them in that sort of Rabbit Hutch Ė Rabbit run things, so you are only allowed one chicken. Even then, you are not allowed them permanently on your residence.
LB: there are a lot of restrictions.
MS: I guess you people have given this quite a lot of thought because it affects you very directly. What other changes to the system had you thought about that might be possible that would assist?
DJ: I think itís up to the Fathers. They leave these Islands; they come back; they leave; they seem to be able to do it to a lot of girls down here. Itís happened for years and it continues to happen. I think they should be paying. There should be a court system here now for us single mothers to be able to fight for the right for our children for their fathers to pay the right amount of money.
SK: You can go to the court here and put that in motion.
LB: No Ė not if the adult is not from the Falkland Islands.
DJ: I am in a battle right now and have been for about 2.5 years but I will never get back-dated from when my child was born. I need this money now. I would like to fight this and I think we deserve to have these fathers be made to pay.
GS: if I could get back to you
SK: I think absent fathers do have a responsibility and to that end we have spoken with the Senior Magistrate and with the AGís Department. And the Senior Magistrate has agreed to meet with either individual parents or parents of a group in the same situation to see how we can address that and take it forward.
MS: is it the case, do you think, that a court order in the Falklands is not enforceable in the United Kingdom? I would have thought it would have been.
SK: I think it is possibly but I am not legally minded so that is why I spoke with the AGís and the Senior Magistrate so that they can guide us through it. I would think that some of the absent fathers are in the Military so I think you could access direct payment from a salary.
KB: If they are an Officer you can approach the Military but if they are a lower rank you canít get through.
MS: The key question is going to be whether a court order here is enforceable in the United Kingdom. And I know it can work in reverse in certain circumstances. I donít know if it can work in this sort of circumstance. I guess thatís a key question to investigate.
SK: Thatís why Social Services are very, very willing to support the parents and we will work alongside them.
Cabbages Round 2:
EE: and I will also go and chase up about the gardens because every government house has a shed Ė a garden shed Ė so it doesnít make any sense to me that you are not allowed to have a garden when we actually provide garden sheds.
KB: You can keep a lawn mower in it.
MS: itís verging on the bonkers, isnít it. The Government is proposing to invest £250,000.00 for import substitution and telling people living in government houses they canít grow cabbages Ė is bonkers.
LB: We live on a massive property on Callaghan Road and we were told that under no circumstances were we to stick a spade in it.
Ronnie McLennon-Baird (RMB): I canít speak to the import substitution adjustment and I am not going to give advice off my head. I did see the significant looks in my direction. I can find out which one of my colleagues is dealing with it and get an answer back.
EE: I think it would be very useful.
RMB: As for the Government Housing, yes. As another Government tenant, in the least, you are not allowed to garden your garden.
EE: Although you can be fined for not keeping your garden in a neat and tidy manner. Now what difference does it make having a row of cabbages or carrots, to having a nicely cut blade of grass? Nothing!
KB: Most of the back of my garden is very damp and the rest of it is a rocky mess. My garden wouldnít be very productive anyway but at least I could have pots or something where I can grow something.
RMB: I am aware of someone who works in a government department who did start to cultivate their garden and received aÖI donít know the status, whether it was a formal warning or just a formal talking to but was told off for gardening their garden.
SH: I find it totally bizarre. I was aware that in the Sheltered Accommodation people werenít allowed gardens, which I thought was unfortunate because if an elderly person wants to do their garden it keeps them fit and healthy, hopefully.
EE: I think this is definitely something to take up and move on. This is crazy.
(Unknown voice): What if the garden is already in?
MS: You better keep quiet about it.
EE: We will be around tomorrow to confiscate your cabbages.
DJ: Mineís full of earwigs.
RE: I do think itís a burden on us to actually find out where that ridiculous rule comes from and if houses are provided with a plot of land big enough for a garden, why on earth not? Some of them are postage stamp and would be nonsense. But I do find it very odd that this rule is in and it would be interesting to see where it came from and why.
MS: Are there other issues that you had thought about that could assist?
LB: Obviously theyíve got transport issues which I am trying to resolve myself but things like childcare Ė being taken as Ė you know making allowances for it with a rent rebate.
KB: There is a form to fill in saying you are a single parent and having to pay an amount out in childcare to be taken into account in the housing rebate because they are struggling to make ends meet with paying out rent, childcare, as well as providing clothing, food and everything for themselves and their children.
LB: Well, it is £1,000.00 total for childcare plus your rent. You donít need to do the maths to know that doesnít work in most jobs.
SH: I understood that people on welfare normally got a rent rebate.
KB: If they go back to work they lose the housing rebate. Anything that you earn is automatically taken into account and they will reduce it accordingly if you have a low income. But at the same time if you are paying most of that income out anyway in childcare they donít take that into account.
EE: There was a case actually just the other day which was brought to my attention that both parents were working but they had just got themselves a plot of land so they were having to pay government rent and, at the same time started their mortgage and they are at a horrible point where they couldnít live in the other place so they had to have their rent. And government at the time presented me with all of their bills and they didnít make ends meet. And they werenít entitled to a rent rebate because it didnít take into account mortgages and things like that. So there are areas where we are slipping in the system.
KB: Would you consider working family tax credit that helps people in this situation? It would top up their wages to a reasonable limit where they can live. That would encourage them to work because they are earning and feeling worthwhile. Inevitably it does save government money. I actually worked out if government paid Kirstyís childcare it would still save them £50.00 a week having her working. Itís a no-brainer to me.
MS: Over the years ĖI canít speak for everybody Ė but over the years we have been quite reluctant to make the tax system more complicated with a whole series of allowances for this, that and the other thing because you can justify almost anything as an allowance if you make the case strong enough. But I have to say thereís a certain amount of inevitability about what you are saying. When you start to tax child allowances and lower tax thresholds what you are talking about is just an obvious consequence of that.
SK: I think this also fits into the standard employment rate and I think itís being looked at by government at the moment.
GS: itís what it says on the box Ė the bare essentials for an 18 year-old on their own.
SK: But some people are working on that minimum wage.
GS: I also take Mikeís point that the government, God bless them, over the years has almost given people a wage increase at the bottom end and that couldnít carry on. I think there had to be a re-adjustment.
MS: Unfortunately it didnít happen in the private sector and you made that quite sensible and generous as for general wages in the public sector but itís not replicated necessarily in the private sector. So if you work in the private sector it doesnít help very much apart from seeing your neighbour earn a bit more than you do.
GS: You ought to group together and make your employers.
The Rev Dr Richard Hines (RH): Do I understand you correctly, Mr Chairman, that there is a commitment from somebody who knows about these things to look into the whole question of the father of a child making a contribution and that contribution being part of a court order and whether or not those court orders are enforceable not only here but in the UK? Is there some kind of commitment into looking into that and clarifying the situation for everybody?
GS: I understand there was.
MS: I think there should be
SK: The Senior magistrate said he will meet with either individuals or with a group to talk through the process and weíve also had a discussion with the AG Department.
RH: I wonder whether in light of the fact that this has been raised in a public meeting whether that could be looked at as a matter of priority and whether the results of it could be published so that the general public is alert to what the situation is?
SK: I think one of the difficulties we have had at the moment is as a Social Work Department we have been very short staffed at the moment and other things are taking priority but there is a meeting we had last week with John Trevaskis that it was raised again. So perhaps the people who are interested should contact me and let me know of their availability and I can liaise with John to have that meeting.
SH: Itís also been the case here over the years that quite often a mother does not necessarily want to pursue the father for money when they are here. And Iíve been aware of that. I have also seen incidences where fathers had been pursued then after a while they just give up on it. The mother tends to give up as well. Itís a case of if you really do want to pursue it you as an individual really need to be pushing for it.
KB: Two and a half years is a long time to be focusing your time and energy into pursuing somebody. In the UK you contact the CSA and in the matter of within 6 months usually they will have to
DJ: After 2.5 years if I was working, would I have to foot the bills for this? Or would the father back date it.
SH: We have a lawyer here at the back. He probably would tell you that you would get legal aid. Would You?
Keith Watson (KW):
KW: It depends on the capital the individual has who wants to get legal advice. If you mention the CSA, itís the kiss of death and itís been proved that in the UK that itís a minefield. As far as working out whether there are reciprocal rights for the people in the Falklands to chase someone in the UK, itís a five-minute job to look it up and find out. The practical difficulties are that people donít stay in the same job for very long; they donít stay in the same house for very long. If it is Military, fair enough. Itís much easier to chase somebody; and that lady was quite right about the difference between chasing an officer and chasing a non-officer. There is a difference. If you are chasing Joe Average in Bradford, he will have buggered off to Brighton before youíve even caught him. And itís a very expensive exercise and you end up getting nowhere. Now thatís nobodyís fault. Thatís just a fact.
SH: itís Military or bust by the sound of it.
Rob McGill (RM): He should honour what he has helped create. There shouldnít be a question. He should just stand up and be counted and pay more than he would as if he was with his family.
LB: some of the fathers are in low paid jobs and canít afford to contribute a great deal either.
KB: Or they have a very many children.
SJ: There are fathers here that earn a lot of money and they will fight and they believe they donít have to pay a penny. But itís not fair for us tax payers who do work. They shouldnít have to pay for what Ė itís not a mistake. Itís a life. I came back home to bring up my children because I thought this was the best environment and I feel like sometimes I am being suffocated but I have got a long battle and I am determined that these men will not walk out of these Islands any more.
GS: Do we have any more comments before we move on?
KB: As I am on welfare at the moment and everything like that, one thing that I do considerably struggle with and come September it will become 100 times worse is getting my daughter to school. Welfare does not take into account that I live opposite the Beaver Hanger and when my daughter starts full time in September, I will have to walk with my two-year old and her approximately 8 times a day, which is about 8 miles a day for my daughter and if I am unwell or one of my children is unwell, I will have to order a taxi or something like that which I do not have the money for. And it costs £40.00 a week at the moment to get my daughter to school in the taxi and come September that will be £80.00 if I get a taxi. Is there any sort of system that can be brought into play that will help people who obviously cannot afford transport and things like that, if they live that far out. Even if it is like the ĎJohn Birminghamís Bus for the elderly Ė something like that where the driver is given a subsidy to pick up young children to take them to school; even if it is with the parent it wouldnít be costing me or taking money away that I do not have means to replace.
EE: For starters, there is a question Ė are there any other children going to the same school in your area? And how do they get there?
KB: Not that I know of. Glenda is one side of me and she hasnít got any and Odette is on the other side of me and Terryís vehicle is broken at the moment.
EE: The first thing is looking at a share if you can find another family.
KB: You donít mean I should go crawling around the neighbours to beg charity?
EE: Well, I used to be part of a car share a lot. I can remember being bundled into various different peopleís cars and being taken to school when I was younger.
KB: Iíve got two small children so itís fitting them in.
SH: I do not feel it is begging charity. When I took my grandson to school each day for a while, it was a whole new world for me because I actually met other parents who were taking their children and you inevitably talk and you do get into groups where you start sharing stuff and it makes sense and it saves time as well.
LB: Most people work now and the kids are literally dropped off at Mini Meís or Kidzone and go and they are not going home at dinner time a lot of the time now. We live in a working culture where people have to be working. I am trying to sort the transport problem out myself but is not just Kristy. There are other Mums that are going to have this problem.
GS: I think perhaps what we can do is give an undertaking more than we have done perhaps to re-examine this in view of what you said and see where we go.
SH: itís up to you guys.
GS: I think it is something we are going to have a look at because I think you hit it on the head. We are becoming a working culture. Over the years I think we almost have been forced to have this track of dumping the kids off and going out to work if there is both of you.
SH: I would prefer to say dropping them off, Gavin. Could I just add here that if my memory serves me correctly some years ago it was tried to do a bus service for taking children to school.
LB: Cherry Ford did it.
SH: Why did that stop?
LB: She found other employment. She now works somewhere else.
SH: it just seems worthwhile if a few people can get together and get a special arrangement with someone to do that kind of thing. Saying where you live in Stanley goes a long way now. Itís not just out west Ė it is down east as well. Itís quite a hike for children at either end.
KB: Itís not just school for me itís to get to the shops. At least up east you can go to the Chandlary and things like that. Currently I have K-1, otherwise itís a long walk or begging a lift off somebody to take me to the West Store or to the Chandlary. Obviously on a tight budget you need to shop around in order to get the cheaper prices.
GS: OK. Itís all noted and we will see what we can do.
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