Toronto Star

October 9, 1999

`Deadbeat' collection squad comes up millions short

Ontario scraps failed effort by private firms

By Patricia Orwen
Toronto Star Social Policy Reporter

One year after it hired private collection agencies to get tough with deadbeat parents, the Ontario government is abandoning the program, having managed to collect less than 1 per cent of the money owed.

``We'd pinned all our hopes on this . . . we're devastated,'' said Renate Diorio of Brampton, who heads the 400-member organization Families Against Deadbeats. ``Mothers and children out there can't pay the rent or afford a phone.

``The government made this sound like the answer, and now they're letting us down again.''

In June last year, the family responsibility office in the attorney-general's ministry announced that three collection agencies had been hired to pursue 23,000 parents, mostly fathers, to collect $450 million they had failed to pay under existing court orders.

This week, the government quietly ended the program after it collected just $4.4 million in outstanding child support.

Ministry spokesperson Brendan Crawley said in an interview the government is taking back all the cases that it assigned to collection agencies and is ``in the process of re-evaluating the project.''

Asked why the agencies collected so little, Crawley said, ``Because it was a pilot project, we did not set a target.''

``Why didn't this work?'' asked Judy Poulin of SCOPE (Support for Children, an Organization for Public Education), a 2,000-member lobby group of parents. ``Usually collection agencies have a fairly good record . . . Is this a matter of bureaucracy?

``Didn't the government do its groundwork?''

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