Recommendations for Reducing Child Poverty

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Earlier this month, First Call released the annual Child Poverty Report Card for BC. The Report Card consists of 10 Fact Sheets focusing on various issues relating to children living in poverty and 15 recommendations that would help decrease BC’s child poverty rate to 7 percent or lower by 2020.

Recommendations

*from the 2012 Child Poverty Report Card

Campaign 2000 calls on all provinces and the federal government to commit to a 50 percent reduction in poverty among all Canadians by 2020.

In BC our overarching recommendation is the adoption of a comprehensive provincial poverty reduction plan with legislated targets and timelines and a cabinet minister with the authority and responsibility to ensure government is achieving its targets on time. We recommend the plan contain a goal to reduce BC’s child poverty rate to 7 percent or lower by 2020.

Recognizing that children of recent immigrants, children of Aboriginal identity, children of female lone-parent fami­lies, children in racialized families and children with a disability, are at greater risk of living in poverty, poverty reduc­tion efforts should also be targeted to achieve major reductions in these populations.

There are many elements that can help the federal and provincial governments achieve these targets.

  1. The BC government should continue raising the minimum wage to make sure that a single person working full-time, full-year reaches the poverty line. The minimum wage should rise to $11 an hour as soon as possible and to $12 an hour on May 1, 2013. Starting in 2014, the minimum wage should be indexed every year to increases in the cost of living.
  2. All workers in BC should be covered by minimum wage legislation, including workers who serve alcoholic beverages and agricultural workers who are currently paid using piece-work rates.
  3. Governments at all levels should make sure their regular and contract employees are paid a living wage that allows them to meet their basic needs, properly support their children and avoid chronic financial stress.
  4. The BC government should raise welfare rates to the after-tax poverty line, and the rates should be indexed each year to match increases in the cost of living.
  5. The province should restore the income exemption for child support payments for lone parents on welfare. The provincial government should also rescind the rule that does not allow welfare recipients to retain ben­efits while attending a post-secondary institution.
  6. The federal government should increase the Canada Child Tax Benefit to $5,500 per child. The increases should go to families without regard to whether earnings or government transfers are the family’s main source of income.
  7. The federal government should implement immediate increases to funding for First Nations child welfare ser­vices, education and community health services and Aboriginal friendship centres, and develop a long-term poverty eradication strategy in coordination with First Nations, urban Aboriginal communities and provincial governments
  8. The federal and provincial governments should intensify their efforts to help immigrants and refugees adjust to life in Canada by improving employment assistance, removing long-standing barriers to qualification for professionals trained abroad, making more language training available, and improving employment stan­dards and human rights protections and enforcement.
  9. The federal government should immediately cancel all outstanding refugee transportation loan debt and cease seeking repayment of transportation costs for new refugees coming to Canada.
  10. The provincial government should create an independent commission on tax reform to study taxes levied in BC and to recommend ways to make the tax system fairer. Reducing income inequality should be one of the commission’s mandates.
  11. The province should adopt and start implementing the Community Plan for an Integrated System of Early Care and Learning, put forward by the Early Childhood Educators of BC and the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, to establish universal access to high quality child care for children that is affordable for families at $10 per day for full-time care, $7 per day for part-time care, and free to fami­lies with incomes under $40,000. The federal government should support this initiative with a national early care and learning program that includes the transfer of adequate and sustained resources to the provinces and territories to create quality, affordable child care spaces and services available to all children (0-12).
  12. Provincial and federal support for access to post-secondary education should be increased both to remove financial barriers for low-income stu­dents and to lower student debt levels. Specific policy options include tuition fee reductions, providing lower income students with grants instead of loans and making student loans interest free.
  13. Cuts in Employment Insurance made by successive federal governments should be rescinded, so that most workers are protected during a temporary loss of wages and receive a benefit they can live on while they look for new employment.
  14. The federal and provincial governments should increase their efforts to provide housing for low-income people. This should include building more social housing to reduce the “core housing needs” of families and to eliminate homelessness. There is also a need to provide rental subsidies and other income supports to families living in or near poverty to reduce housing insecurity.
  15. All British Columbians need coverage for prescription drugs, dental care and eye care. While some workers already have access to extended medical and dental benefits through their work, universal public plans would expand and stabilize coverage for all and reduce costs through economies of scale.

Visit the 2012 Child Poverty Report Card  to read the Fact Sheets on child poverty.