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2011 Child and Family Poverty Report Card – Social Planning Council of Winnipeg

Thursday, Sep 22nd, 2011

The Portrait of Poverty

1. Executive Summary

Poverty continues to have a detrimental impact on the lives of nearly one in three children in Manitoba. According to the Statistics Canada Low Income Measure (LIM, before taxes), over 90,000 children live in poverty. Included in these unreasonably and unnecessarily high numbers are nearly 30,000 Manitoba children whose families do not receive the necessary supports to meet their basic needs, as measured by the Market Basket Measure (MBM).The number of children and their families who struggle financially has not changed significantly since 1989 when the Federal Government passed an all-party resolution to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.

The portrait of poverty presented in this report includes a statistical profile of poverty as seen through the lens of Campaign 2000, a national effort to eradicate poverty. The portrait also describes some of the ways people find to cope with poverty. In general, poverty is presented here as both a measure of deprivation (not having enough money) and social exclusion (being restricted in striving for a higher quality of life).

The data in this Child and Family Poverty Report Card clearly illustrates the dire circumstances faced by those living below accepted poverty measures. The Report Card is a social critique and offers constructive recommendations to stimulate Manitobans to exert influence on those who can reduce, and hopefully eradicate poverty. Using 2009 data, the latest available, we see that a portrait of poverty in Manitoba includes:

• 92,650 children in Manitoba living in families under the poverty threshold
• 29,000 children in Manitoba living in families with annual incomes insufficient for meeting basic needs
• 29,563 Manitoban children using food banks each month because their families cannot afford to purchase the necessary food they require
• 59,734 Manitobans accessed Employment and Income Assistance
• The richest 20% of Manitoban families have more total income than the poorest 60% of the population.

What these numbers display is that poverty and inequality persist despite official and unofficial efforts to increase incomes and lower the social/economic barriers that people living in poverty face. Since 1989 when the Parliament of Canada unanimously voted to end child poverty by the year 2000, there has been focused interest on developing poverty reduction strategies at the provincial level. While some of these strategies have not yet had time to have a full impact, the cruel reality is that more than 30% of Manitoban children have been living in poverty for the last three decades.

A potential asset on the horizon for those living in poverty is the newly passed Poverty Reduction Strategy Act (June 2011). Similar governmental efforts in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have shown how concerted government policies and programs can reduce the numbers of people living in poverty. The Province of Manitoba introduced the “All Aboard” Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion Strategy to create the conditions that would allow people to participate fully in society. In the Strategy are four pillars of the plan to designed to reduce poverty:

• safe, affordable housing in supportive communities
• education, jobs and income support
• strong, healthy families
• accessible, co-ordinated services

We have yet to see what impact the Manitoba Poverty Reduction Strategy will have on poverty in the long term.

Despite the introduction of social programs, high numbers of Manitoba children and their families are continuing to rely on social supports to maintain a rudimentary lifestyle. Thousands of people in Manitoba are relying on Employment and Income Assistance (EIA), Employment Insurance, social housing, food banks, local charities, families and a number of health and social services. Current supports offered by community organizations are stressed to capacity and overloaded. For many people accessing EIA , a significant proportion use it only once and get back on their feet, while some, particularly people with disabilities and people with significant barriers to employment, remain on welfare for years. None of these supports provide people a living income, though they do help people fend off the worst implications of poverty. These supports do not necessarily give people the leverage to improve their capacity to thrive, but, at least, they are able to fend off the worst dimensions of destitution.

There is no one reason that poverty persists in Manitoba. While some people are moving up the income ladder and becoming financially independent, others are losing their jobs, getting reduced hours, moving off reserve, experiencing family bread down or coming into the province and need support. Generally, economic conditions, combined with taxation changes have not generated the jobs and government revenues that are needed for major efforts to help people extricate themselves from poverty conditions.

For the future, Manitobans living in poverty or on its precarious margins can expect continued financial stress and will still have to find new ways of making ends meet. Global economic conditions are precariously balanced, and government resources particularly the federal transfer payments to the province are not expected to increase.

In our assessment, we as society get a failing grade. While there is a great deal of public concern about economic and social ramifications of poverty, it appears we have not made the effort to change things. We are doing what is required to mitigate the worst effects of poverty, but we have not taken the major steps needed to eradicate child poverty.

Download 2011 Child and Family Poverty Report Card – Social Planning Council of Winnipeg