STILL IN DENIAL: BC’S RELUCTANCE TO ACT BOLDLY TO REDUCE CHILD POVERTY
TMTVNEWS.COM (Submitted) The 2015 BC Child Poverty Report Card released today by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition shows BC’s continued failure to develop a comprehensive poverty reduction plan with targets and timelines has left the provinces child poverty rate unacceptably high.
At 20.4% (1 in 5 children), BC’s child poverty rate is higher than the Canadian average of 19% and represents 167,810 children — enough children to fill the entire Disneyland theme park four times. Just over half, or 85,450 of these children, lived in Metro Vancouver. The report uses statistics from 2013, the most recent data available.
More than half (50.3%) of all children living in lone-parent families, the vast majority of them single mother families, were living in poverty in 2013, compared to 13% for children in couple families.
“The data in this report is evidence of a continuing child poverty crisis that reaches into every corner of the province. With a new federal government intent on developing a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy that is to be aligned with provincial strategies, it’s time for BC to join the other provinces and develop a provincial poverty reduction plan,” said Cheryl Mixon, chairperson of the First Call Coalition.
Other key findings in the report include:
- Between 2012 and 2013, BC’s child poverty rate decreased very slightly from 20.6% to 20.4%. However, since the passage of the 1989 House of Commons all-party resolution to eliminate child poverty in Canada by the year 2000, BC’s child poverty rate has risen from 15.5% to 20.4% in 2013.
- Poor families in BC are very poor, with all poor family types living on average over $10,000 below the poverty line.
- One third of BC’s single parent families are in core housing need (housing that is in poor repair, unaffordable or crowded) and nearly a quarter of these parents experience moderate to severe food insecurity.
- 23 out of BC’s 29 regional districts had at least 1,000 children living in poverty. The highest rate was found in the Central Coast Regional District, with a 50.6% child poverty rate.
- 78% of all Metro Vancouver census tracts had at least 100 poor children living in them, and half of all Metro Vancouver municipalities had census tracts with child poverty rates of 20% or higher.
- Poverty rates for young children under 6 were higher than overall child poverty rates in 22 out of 24 urban areas outside of Metro Vancouver, some as high as 37% (Port Alberni and Duncan).
- Income inequality has continued to grow in BC, with a 78.3% increase in median income for the top 0.1% vs. a 0.3% increase for the bottom 99% between 1982 and 2012.
“Poverty robs children of their potential,” said Michael McKnight, CEO of the United Way of the Lower Mainland. “It not only raises social costs; it threatens our future prosperity. We need a concerted effort from all levels of government to bring the poverty rate down for families with children.”
The Report Card makes 21 public policy recommendations that would help reduce the child poverty rate to seven percent or less by 2020. These recommendations include adopting the $10 a Day Child Care Plan; increasing and indexing the minimum wage and welfare rates, increasing provincial and federal child tax benefits; paying living wages; enhancing Employment Insurance benefits and eligibility; increasing affordable housing options for families; addressing poverty for First Nations and urban Aboriginal families, improving the affordability of post-secondary education, and enhancing universal health coverage, among others.
“When we fail to make sure all our children have enough to eat, decent housing and the other supports they need to thrive, we are also failing to meet our obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by both Canada and BC,” said Scott Graham, Associate Executive Director of SPARC BC. “High child poverty rates are neither inevitable nor acceptable, and we know what policy changes will help reduce both the depth and the scope of poverty for families. We’re calling for senior levels of government to make this a priority.”
First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition is part of Campaign 2000, a national network that marks the anniversary every November of the 1989 pledge by the House of Commons to work to end child poverty by the year 2000. The 2015 BC Child Poverty Report Card was prepared by the First Call Coalition with the help of the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC).