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Child poverty rate in B.C. on the rise, according to new report

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A new report shows the number of children living in poverty in British Columbia is going up – with kids living on-reserve and those in single-parent households most likely to be impacted.

According to the First Call Child and Youth Advocacy Society, one in seven B.C. children lives in poverty.

"It's a form of social exclusion to be in a wealthy society but to not have what a lot of other kids have,” said executive director Adrienne Montani.

Released Monday, the report focuses on incomes from 2021 and shows a child poverty rate of 14.3 percent.

That’s an increase from 13.3 percent in 2020.

Montani says there was a sharp decline in the poverty rate in 2020 because many families were able to take advantage of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the federal government scaled down CERB and other pandemic-related social assistance programs, the child poverty rate started to creep upwards.

"We saw when the CERB money was coming through that there was a smaller gap between the rich and the poor,” said Montani. “Now that those income supports are being withdrawn, the gap has widened."

The child poverty rate on 67 First Nations reserves examined for the study is 31 per cent.

For kids living in single-parent households, the poverty rate is 40.4 pe rcent.

"Things like childcare will come into that, because if you are a single parent and you don't have childcare, you can't work,” said Montani. “If you don't have after-school care, you can't work a full-time job if you have to go pick your kid up at three o'clock."

The report includes a number of recommendations for reducing child poverty – mostly directed at the provincial and federal governments.

It calls on the province to index the BC Family Benefit to inflation, prioritize new childcare and social housing developments, raise social assistance rates and increase the minimum wage to $20 per hour by 2026.

"We want every kid to have the very best chance of success early in their life,” said Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

“That's why our poverty reduction strategy has such a focus on eliminating and reducing child poverty."

She stopped short of committing to any of the recommendations in the report, but said she will have more to say during this legislative session.

"People on income assistance need more support and that's work that we're doing,” said Malcolmson. “We'll be tabling our new poverty reduction strategy in the house this spring."

The sooner the better for the 126,000 BC children living below the poverty line.

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