One in five children in BC lives in poverty

Child poverty

The province places fifth in the country for child poverty rates

By Angela Espinoza, News Editor

The November 24 “Child Poverty Report Card,” conducted annually by children’s advocacy group First Call, has reported that BC’s child poverty rates place fifth in the country.

Despite a promise by the House of Commons in 1989 to end child poverty in Canada by 2000, every province’s child poverty numbers in 2012, save for Newfoundland’s, had risen, in some cases substantially.

Citing information recorded in 2012, over 169,000 children were reportedly living in poverty, up from the previous year’s 153,000 count. The numbers indicated are roughly the same as they were in 1994 (170,000), when First Call released their first Child Poverty Report Card, meaning 20 years later one in five children in BC remains living in poverty.

Roughly 50 per cent of single-parent families were also living below their respective poverty line. The poverty line adjusts based on the family-type, ranging from one parent with one child (poverty line: $23,755) to two parents with three children (poverty line: $40,723). Statistics Canada found that single-parent-single-child households in poverty lived nearly $10,000 below the poverty line on average.

The report notes at one point that the average single parent with one child who works full-time year-round at minimum wage still makes roughly $8,000 below their respective poverty line. In addition, while the cost of living in BC continues to increase, income assistance rates have not improved.

Statistics Canada also found that of single parent households, 81 per cent of the country’s single parents were mothers.

Viveca Ellis, who co-created the Single Mothers’ Alliance BC last year, told CBC of her situation as a single parent: “It was this complex combination of the extremely high cost of childcare, precarious work, our broken welfare system, and this social isolation that can be very dehabilitating (sic) as a single mother.”

Along with the basic needs of food and shelter, children need positive experiences to expand their minds and be encouraged in their creativity. Ellis added that her focus as a single parent went beyond overcoming poverty, as she couldn’t afford child-friendly activities outside of her home. “Any kind of fun activity that you know your child needs is out of reach,” said Ellis.

The end of this year’s Child Poverty Report Card lists 19 recommendations, which were written with specific “areas of responsibility” in mind: Federal, Provincial, and local. One of the report’s most heavily suggested solutions, aimed at the Federal Government, is to “increase the combined Canada Child Tax Benefit/National Child Benefit” to $5,600 per child. The combined benefits are meant to aid families throughout the year, with the annual benefit for a first child being $3,485 in 2012—First Call has requested roughly $2,000 more.

Suggestions to remove specific financial barriers, lower various costs, and raise aid benefits for families were also made, in part to help those in poverty, and to also prevent the numbers from being so high in the future.