By Lisa De Paoli
In November 2015, the BC Child Poverty Report Card reported one out of five children in British Columbia lives in poverty.
Even worse, in the South Cariboo, one in four children is poor. Even worse than that, one in two children of single parents lives in poverty.
Look around you – just think – when you see four children running down the street one or two of these children are living in poverty.
Most likely they do not have access to nutritious food, live in poorly maintained housing, cannot participate in recreational activities, do not have transportation and are bullied by other children because they are different.
Many of their parents work hard for a minimum wage, cannot afford quality child care and argue constantly about money.
Many of their parents are traumatized through abuse and neglect in their childhood, experience depression and anxiety and often deal with the violence of domestic abuse.
In addition to these daily struggles of children in our community, our society and we, as taxpayers, also suffer.
Poverty results in poor school performance and increased education costs, prevalent mental and chronic illnesses and increased health care costs – to name a few.
Most importantly, poverty results in children not achieving their full potential – perhaps one of our children in poverty could have cured cancer, eliminated climate change, won a Nobel Peace Prize but we will never know – living in poverty prevents them from achieving their full potential.
Our children in poverty did not choose this life – our society has allowed these conditions to continue.
We can make a positive difference and stand up for our children who don’t have a voice.
The BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition calls on us to tell our provincial government to adopt a comprehensive provincial poverty reduction plan with legislated targets and timelines, a cabinet minister with the authority and responsibility to ensure government is achieving its targets on time, and a goal to reduce B.C.’s child poverty rate to seven per cent or lower by 2020.
To achieve this goal the BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition has developed 21 recommendations including:
• Raise minimum wage to $15 per hour. Index it annually and apply it to all workers.
• Adopt and begin implementing $10 a Day Child Care Plan.
• Increase funding for First Nations child welfare, education and health services, and develop a long term plan to eradicate poverty among aboriginal families.
• Reduce the number of families in core housing need and eliminate homelessness through investments in affordable housing.
• Continue to pay the children’s benefit to grandparents on Canada Pension Plan Disability after they turn 65 when they are raising their grandchildren.
To learn more, visit www.firstcallbc.org.
Lisa De Paoli is the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre executive director.