A B.C. coalition is reiterating its call for a poverty reduction plan in the wake of its latest report card that shows an increased number of poor children in the province.
In its 2013 child poverty report card, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition indicates that the number of poor children in the province in 2011 was 153,000, up from 119,000 in 2010. This translates to about one in every five children in B.C., and represents a higher level of child poverty than any other province.
“Altogether, it’s a very disappointing picture, in that we’ve seen the dials go in the wrong direction, and yet we know what works, and we’re disappointed to see that what works isn’t working in B.C.,” Lorraine Copas, the executive director of the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C., said at a press conference today (November 26).
Kids under six comprised more than one third of poor children in B.C. in 2011, and poverty in single-mother homes increased from 21.5 percent in 2010 to 49.8 percent in 2011.
“This was the cohort that had seen perhaps the most dramatic rise,” noted Copas. “What the data actually shows for this year is that half of all children in single-parent family households were likely to be living in poverty.”
One in three children living in households where one parent was working full-time also faced poverty.
“This is a symptom of some of the challenges in our labour market, where we don’t have living wages or where the work is unstable or precarious,” said Copas. “And we have to look at what that means for that family. Because it should be that if you have a job, your family shouldn’t have to live in poverty.”
The report card is based on the latest Statistics Canada figures from 2011, and uses the StatsCan before-tax low-income cut-offs as the measure of poverty.
Ted Bruce, the executive director of population health for Vancouver Coastal Health, noted there can be “a huge gap” in the mortality of people living in poverty compared to those living in higher socio-economic conditions.
“What we know in health care is that there is a gradient between those from the lower income to the higher income in relation to their health,” said Bruce.
“So those who are at the top of our income scales—they have better access to education, they have more access to nutritious food and good housing, and they have the most control over their life circumstances. Those at the bottom are twice as likely to have a serious illness and die prematurely than those at the top. So it is very significant for us to try to address this issue of low income and poverty.”
During the press conference, Frances Stone recounted to reporters some of the challenges she has faced as a single parent.
“My son came home from school one day and said that he wasn’t allowed to go to school the next day unless he had proper shoes and a proper jacket, and I had a complete stranger bring over those things because I had no money to buy them,” she said.
“Another moment I remember was sitting at the kitchen table, and my children–they were two and three at the time–asking for more bread and butter, and I had to say no, you can’t have more. And you can’t have more milk, which was already watered down. I mean, it was really like the Depression or something. I couldn’t even believe it.”
The coalition’s report card makes 16 public policy recommendations, including increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour and indexing it to cost of living increases, raising welfare rates, adopting the $10-a-day child-care plan, and allowing single parents on welfare to keep up to $300 a month in child-support payments.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development issued its own numbers this week, based on the after-tax low-income cut-offs from Statistics Canada, which put the province's child-poverty rate at 11.3 percent in 2011. The ministry's statement also notes that B.C.'s minimum wage has increased three times since May 2011 to $10.25 per hour.