* Photo by Kageaki Smith. Money issues: Broadcast journalist Ceola Wilson’s documentary highlights the struggle for affordable housing.
* Photo by Kageaki Smith. Money issues: Broadcast journalist Ceola Wilson’s documentary highlights the struggle for affordable housing.
Absentee fathers who don't pay child support will be tracked down by a new $600,000 computer system.

The courts will use the hi-tech equipment to keep tabs on dads who fail to pay maintenance.

Details of the system will be revealed in a TV documentary on Monday.

The hour-long film, Operation Changing Mindsets 3: Bermuda's Housing Challenges, is by veteran journalist Ceola Wilson.

It exposes how many single mothers live in poverty while their children's fathers dodge their financial responsibilities.

An increasing number are forced to turn to Financial Assistance for help.

Dianne Taylor, director of Financial Services, tells the programme: "You see people that are owed between $20,000 and $30,000.

"If they were receiving that money as they should be on a monthly basis, a lot of them would not need to come to Financial Assistance at all."

The programme features a mother forced to live in a tent while her daughter's father - who owed her thousands of dollars in child support - drove around in a $25,000 car.

It also shows women as young as 25 with five children by different fathers who need Government hand-outs because their "baby daddies" have racked up thousands of dollars in arrears.

Ms Taylor says: "Somebody really needs to say, this year we are going to go out and do some head hunting and get the dollars that are owed to these mouths."

Chief Justice Richard Ground tells the film that the new computer system, which will go live next year, will help the courts keep better tabs on fathers who fail to pay.

But he admits there is little the courts can do about persistent offenders who continue to withhold cash, other than send them to jail.

A mom of two, whose identity is hidden, says: "If they do look them up for child support they should make them work - take them out sweeping streets and cleaning playgrounds... better to make them work and get a pay cheque to pay us than leave them locked up because we are still not getting the money."

Such schemes, some of which have been deployed successfully in other jurisdictions, would require a change in the law before they can be implemented here.

Ms Wilson said her investigations, part of a broad look at housing issues in Bermuda, highlighted how hundreds of thousands of dollars in court-ordered child support payments are going unpaid each year.

The issue feeds into some of Bermuda's wider problems.

She said: "They are talking about legislation to punish parents for the behaviour of their sons.

"I'm not sure how I feel about that when we can't enforce the legislation on the most basic parental responsibility for fathers to pay child support.

"I know plenty of single moms who work from sun up to sun down to keep a roof over their children's heads because they are not receiving any support from the father."

GANG CULTURE

Ms Wilson said kids who grow up in single parent homes - now the norm in Bermuda - without support or parental supervision are often the ones who seek alternative families in gang culture.

She added: "A lot of boys come from single parent families. If it's just mamma and she's always working you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the links to the stupidness that is going on out there right now."

The documentary also looks at practical solutions.

Justice Ground told Ms Wilson the Law Reform Committee was looking into potential changes to legislation that could help.

The group, chaired by Justice Norma Wade Miller, has submitted a series of recommendations to the Attorney General.

Justice Ground would not discuss the content of the report but said: "There may be creative solutions, such as linking enforcement to vehicle licensing and travel, but that would require an Act of Parliament."

The documentary, produced by TNT productions, is sponsored by the Ministry of Labour, Home Affairs and Housing but it doesn't pull any punches

Ms Wilson said: "I'm honest and I believe in being real. If you can't highlight the problems, how can you talk about the solutions?"

She added that Minister Colonel Burch had been instrumental in making the film.

She said: "If he didn't think outside the box it would never happen.

"Einstein once said, 'We cannot solve today's problems with yesterday's thinking'.

"To change the mindset you must first be equipped with the facts to at the very least develop informed opinions on serious emotive issues.

"Bringing back the cat of nine tails won't stop the gunplay on our streets.

"The fingers on the trigger were small fingers around the kitchen table first - we've got to start there, to improve the social conditions of our future generations, changing one mind at a time.

"Watch the show, you'll walk away better informed of the facts."