Premier Stephen McNeil says it is unfair for people on income assistance who receive child support to have a portion of that money clawed back, and he's looking to make changes.

"We need to have a look at this," the premier told reporters at Province House on Thursday.

"We want to make sure that those families are not penalized."

New Democrat MLA Sue Leblanc raised the issue in the House on Wednesday, citing the case of Fatuma Seid, a single mother on social assistance who also works part time. In an interview, Seid said 100 per cent of the child support payments she receives are clawed back from her income assistance.

"I have never received my daughter's child support."

'There are many people like me'

Seid said she's taken steps to upgrade her education and get a better job, but making progress is difficult because 70 per cent of what she earns at work is also clawed back by the province.

"How could you get ahead?" she said. "There are many people like me out there. Single mothers are suffering."

Sue Leblanc

Dartmouth North MLA Sue Leblanc says the province should treat child support payments the same way it does the federal Canada Child Benefit for people on social assistance. (CBC)

Leblanc noted that there is no penalty for the money parents receive from the federal Canada Child Benefit and said the provincial clawback can cost a single parent about $2,000 per year, per child.

McNeil, who has championed efforts for more accountability when it comes to ensuring people make good on child support payments, said he first learned of the penalty earlier this week during a meeting with Community Services Minister Kelly Regan.

"This is child support," he said. "This is money owed to children."

An easy change to make

McNeil said he's asked Regan and her department staff to look at what steps would be required to change the policy.

Leblanc told reporters Thursday it is an easy change to make and she hopes child support money will soon be treated the same way as the federal child benefit.

"I think that [the government] just needs to do it and put the money that is owed to children back in the pocket of children and their caregivers."

Seid said she was pleased to hear about the premier's comments, adding that she speaks publicly about her situation in hopes of bringing change.

"I'm always optimistic and I know things can change."

With files from Jean Laroche