The Dexter government’s inexplicable decision to move the Maintenance Enforcement Program from Halifax to Cape Breton is creating massive headaches for support recipients:
More stories of confusion and uncertainty emerged Tuesday over the NDP government moving the offices and staff tasked with tracking down deadbeat dads.
As of this month, the Justice Department has closed all its maintenance enforcement offices — in Amherst, Sydney, Dartmouth, Kentville and New Glasgow — to the public. The service is to be relocated to New Waterford, with a new office opening in the spring.
Carolyn Stewart of Halifax, who last received a payment in August and is now owed $18,000, said Tuesday that she just talked to her caseworker in the Amherst office Monday and was told her file would be moved to Cape Breton. The caseworker, like others on the mainland, isn’t making the move to the new office.
Stewart said she didn’t realize the Cape Breton office isn’t open yet.
Justice Department figures showed that, as of March 31, 2011, there were more than 15,000 cases in the province’s maintenance enforcement program, which collects and distributes court-ordered payments like spousal support. More than 9,000 cases were in arrears, by a total amount of $81 million by Dec. 31, 2011, according to the department.
A single mother quoted Tuesday in The Chronicle Herald said she had been waiting six weeks to hear from a caseworker after leaving several voice messages and was having problems with the program’s 1-800 number.
Justice Minister Ross Landry said Tuesday he called the woman and left a message expressing his concern about her situation.
Another woman contacted The Chronicle Herald on Tuesday saying she also had trouble with the automated telephone message system.
Rachelle Purcell said in an interview that she’s tired of getting the runaround while chasing the court-ordered payments for her teenage daughter. The last payment she received arrived Nov. 12, and arrears total about $9,600, she said.
“I can’t get hold of one person,” she said, referring to enforcement workers on her file. “They don’t call you back.”