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Child Poverty in BC Declines

19/06/2012 – British Columbia must concede a record it has held for almost a decade. But in this case, the province is likely glad to do so, as this particular record is having Canada’s worst child poverty rate.

In British Columbia, child poverty fell to 10.5 per cent in 2010 from 11.8 per cent the previous year, says data from Statistics Canada. With this decline, the province loses the eight-year title it held as having the country’s worst child poverty rate.

Manitoba now has the world’s worst child poverty rate, checking in at just over 11 per cent.According to Statistics Canada’s The Daily, the proportion of low-income households in Canada in 2010 was virtually unchanged from the previous year. About 9 per cent of the population (3 million Canadians) lived in low-income households—down from about 12.5 at the start of the millennium.

The report, released today, also states that 546,000 children came from low-income families that year. As a proportion of children, this is down to 8.1 per cent from 13.8 per cent in 2000. Children living in households headed bysingle mother are more likely to live in poverty—almost four times as likely than children from two-parent homes.

In British Columbia, the actual number of poor children fell by 11,000 to a total of 87,000. The overall poverty rate also fell slightly, the CBC reports.

“Helping families through crises while, at the same time, creating opportunities for jobs and developing strategies together to give families the keys to capability at the community level is what will give families the springboards they need,” said BC’s Minister of Children and Family Development, Mary McNeil, to the CBC.

Last week, it was reported that the BC government will introduce changes to its welfare system to boost the incomes of poor families. Vulnerable households will receive $100 per child aged five to eleven and $175 for each child over twelve to assist with school start-up costs. Tax exemptions for families on welfare and better access to child dental treatment are also included in the plan.

So far, these changes appear to have drawn mixed reactions. Praise has been given to the new assistance program, though some continue to advocate for a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy at the provincial level.

Last month, the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Report Card 10: Measuring Child Poverty studied child poverty in industrialized countries. According to UNICEF Canada, the report showed that the country’s child poverty rate is higher than the overall poverty rate. Nationwide, 13 per cent of Canadian kids are impoverished, putting Canada in 24th place among its 35 peers under study.

UNICEF has recommended that Canada:

• Make children a priority in budget allocations and give them first call on the nation’s resources;
• Make governance child-sensitive.

“Canada should also establish a national poverty reduction strategy, including a focus on children,” says a UNICEF statement on Report Card 10.

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