Research has long demonstrated that poverty is toxic to children’s health and development. From poor nutrition to family stress to exclusion from social participation, there are many ways poverty is known to raise the risk of life-long ill effects on health and reduce opportunities for individuals to realize their full potential. Growing income inequality in BC is recognized as a threat to the health of both individuals and our society.
- BC has the second worst child poverty rate in Canada (14%) and the worst poverty rate for children living in two-parent families (12%). BC also has the most unequal distribution of income between rich and poor families with children of any province.
- There are significantly higher poverty rates for children of recent immigrants, children of Aboriginal identity, children in female lone-parent families, children in racialized families and children with a disability. For example, census data shows that urban Aboriginal families experienced nearly double the poverty rate of non-Aboriginal urban families (21% vs. 11% respectively).
- There are serious negative impacts from living in poverty, even for one or two years, on young children’s health and development. These impacts include longer-term effects such as increased risks of chronic disease, school failure, and criminal involvement.
- Health inequities are associated with higher costs for our health and social service systems, and social costs to our communities. It is estimated that if disadvantaged British Columbians were as healthy as those with higher education and incomes, avoided health care costs would amount to $1.2 billion.
- BC is one of only two provinces that don’t have a comprehensive poverty reduction plan.
Q: If elected, will your party adopt a comprehensive provincial poverty reduction plan with legislated targets and timelines, a cabinet minister with the authority and responsibility to ensure government is achieving its targets on time, and a goal of reducing BC’s child poverty rate to 7 percent or lower by 2020?
- There was an average of 36,918 children in families on welfare in 2010. Many of the children were in female-led lone-parent families.
- In 2010, a BC two-parent family with two children aged 10 and 15 on welfare received a total income of $21,608. That’s $20,457 below the Statistics Canada poverty line for a family of 4 in a large urban area (or at 51% of the poverty line). A BC lone-parent family with one child aged two received $17,121, which is $11,061 below the poverty line (or at 61% of the poverty line).
- Families on welfare are frequently forced to rely on food banks and other sources of charity to feed and clothe their children.
- The provincial government claws back $15 million annually in child support payments intended for children whose parents are on income assistance.
Q: If elected will your party increase welfare rates to the after-tax poverty line and index them annually?
Q: If elected will your party restore the income exemption for child support payments for lone parents on welfare?
Q: If elected, will your party allow welfare recipients to retain benefits while attending a post-secondary institution?
- In 2010, 43% of poor children in BC (41,300 children) lived in families with at least one adult working full-time, full-year, and many others lived in families with at least some income from part- time or part-year employment.
- A living wage is calculated based on what a family needs to earn in order to meet their basic living expenses.
- The provincial government has a responsibility to avoid contributing to the problem of low wage poverty by paying their employees and contractors a living wage.
- The current minimum wage of $10.25 an hour would still leave full-time, full-year workers living on their own about $3,000 below the poverty line for a large city. A parent with dependents would have to earn much more than the minimum wage to be above the poverty line.
Q: If elected, will your party establish and implement a pilot Living Wage Policy in a relevant provincial government ministry or agency as is called for by the Living Wage for Families Campaign?
Q: If elected, will your party continue raising the minimum wage to make sure that a single person working full-time, full-year reaches the poverty line?
- Over 10,000 children in BC are being raised by a grandparent or relative – more than the number in our foster care system. Most kinship caregivers are single women, and many live near or beneath the poverty line.
- Despite an overall increase in the number of kinship families since 2010, significantly fewer families (as many as 1,500) receive financial assistance through kinship benefits today.
- Keeping families together leads to the best long term positive outcomes for children. Supporting kinship care providers helps to secure those outcomes and can be the best and the most cost effective support for these children and families over the long term.
Q: If elected, will your party ensure the immediate return of a financial benefit for kinship caregivers that reflects the unique and complex realities of kinship families, regardless of guardianship orders, and supports these families
throughout the child’s development?
- First Call 2012 Child Poverty Report Card
- Living Wage for Families Campaign: www.livingwageforfamilies.ca and www.lwemployers.ca
- CCPA-BC Poverty Reduction Plan: www.policyalternatives.ca/reports/2008/12/poverty_reduction
- SPARC BC: www.sparc.bc.ca/resources-and- publications/category/43/poverty
- Campaign 2000 National Child Poverty Report Card: www.campaign2000.ca
- BC Poverty Reduction Campaign: www.bcpovertyreduction.ca
- Raise the Rates Coalition: http://raisetherates.org
- Parent Support Services Society of BC: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
- Social Housing Coalition of BC: www.socialhousingbc.com