Another report card, another stagnant rate. One in five children still lives in poverty in BC, as reported in First Call’s 2019 Child Poverty Report Card. However, despite BC seeing 18 years in a row with higher than national average child poverty rates, there has been progress and advocates insist there are solutions.
First Call’s 23rd Annual Child Poverty Report Card was released on January 14, 2020. They report that the overall poverty rate across Canada is shrinking and credit the federal Canada Child Benefit (launched in July 2016); and the increase in household incomes for families receiving welfare and disability payments. It is anticipated that further poverty reductions will be achieved when BC’s new Child Opportunity Benefit comes into effect this fall.
There have been successes, however, First Call also says that “For the first time since 2009, we see an increase in lone-parent families to make up over half of BC’s poor children”. In addition, the data shows that nearly half (44.9%) of the kids living in poverty identify as recent immigrant children, one-third (30.9%) as Indigenous children living outside of First Nations communities and one-quarter (23%) as racialized (2016 census).
There is more work to be done. Next month, the BC Budget will be released. What would the poverty reduction advocates like to see supported by the government? The list includes increasing the number of $10-a-day child care centres, offering No-Fee Childcare spaces for those families earning $45k or less, increasing income supports and providing affordable housing, targeting efforts to help those who have a higher risk of living in poverty, increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, raising income and disability assistance rates in line with actual living expenses (up to 75 per cent of the Market Basket Measure) and indexing them to inflation. The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition also says that the province’s poverty reduction strategy must adopt a gender-based lens to analyze how men, women, and non-binary people experience poverty differently.
BC now has a poverty reduction strategy called, TogetherBC. We’ve seen positive impacts from the strategies that have been implemented so far. And, yes, we can improve. If we want to live in an equitable and just society, we need to find solutions to address the systemic barriers facing those living in poverty.
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