VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – BC has the strongest economy in the country, yet one in every five children across the province is living in poverty, and that number soars to more than half of all children in single-parent families.
The latest report card on child poverty in BC finds there has been a slight improvement in the numbers, but there are still 163,260 children living under the “stresses and deprivations” of poverty, more than the entire population of Abbotsford — BC’s fourth largest city.
“It’s gone down 0.6 per cent, but that’s a really minute amount and close to 20 per cent of children are still poor in BC,” says Adrienne Montani, the provincial coordinator for First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. “It has not improved at all for children living in lone-parent families. Half of all kids living with single parents are still poor.”
And Montani adds contrary to popular belief, the majority of poor children in BC have parents in paid work. “Because of that, some of our chief recommendations are around paying living wages and raising the minimum wage. The province also needs to implement an affordable, $10 a day child care plan that would allow more mothers in particular, but even two-parent families, to go to work.”
Montani believes a provincial child poverty plan should also address housing affordability issues and an increase in welfare rates.
The 2016 BC Child Poverty Report Card also focuses on youth who are aging out of foster care and into poverty. “We have specific recommendations around making sure they get the same kind of support that other kids do who have family support up the age of 25,” explains Montani.
Nationally, 1.3 million children in Canada are living in poverty, putting us at 26 out of 35 countries in UNICEF’s international ranking of child inequality “Any time spent in poverty during childhood has immediate and long-term physical, mental and social implications,” says Executive Director of the Canadian Paediatric Society Marie Adele Davis.
“Childhood poverty not only holds children back from reaching their potential, but is a threat to public health and our country’s future success. Supplementary health benefits, accessible and affordable child care, and targeted nutrition and housing programs would all help children and youth to thrive and reach their full potential.”
The national 2016 Campaign 2000 report card also recommends the federal government index the Canada Child Benefit to inflation in 2017 to help families keep up with the rising cost of living. “With children’s lives at stake, our country’s future is at stake,” says national Campaign 2000 coordinator Anita Khanna. “Government must immediately step on the gas pedal so Canada can leave child poverty behind.”Campaign 2000 National Report Card 2016/Child Poverty