ECD and the Election Webinar + First Call Election Kit
With a Provincial Election around the corner, First Call has once again published an elections kit that will help parents, professionals, advocates and concerned citizens make sure that issues relating to children and youth are heard this May. [divider]
The kit is structured around the Four Keys to Success:
A Strong Commitment to Early Childhood Development
The kit outlines the key issues relating to early childhood development as:
- Increasing vulnerability: 31% of children in BC enter Kindergarten vulnerable in at least one are of their development (social, emotional, cognitive, communications or physical).
- BC under-invests in ECD compared to international norms, placing children at risk of a wide range of health and social issues later in life.
- There is a childcare crisis resulting in far too few childcare spaces, unaffordable rates and low pay across the sector.
- Children with special needs are waiting for help and inclusion during crucial early months and years of development, sometimes resulting in permanent impairments.
- The early years sector lacks a comprehensive plan and experiences unstable funding.
Support in Transitions from Childhood to Youth and Adulthood
- Increased Economic EqualityPublic school funding has received persistent budget cuts over the past decade.
- Special needs students are unable to access the supports they need within the schools system.
- Relying on parent fees and fundraising to supplement budget cuts creates a system of have and have-not schools.
- BC has the highest student/educator ration in the country.
- Graduation rates for some students, particularly Aboriginal, special needs and youth in foster care are between 54 and 21%.
- Average post secondary tuition fees have increased four-fold over the last 10 years. This has led to unprecedented levels of student debt and post secondary exclusion for students from low-income families.
- Aboriginal, newcomer, LGBT and youth with a disability are over-represented in the foster care system.
- Our foster care system is unstable and youth are often bounced around between foster homes and communities.
- Youth leaving the foster care system and transitioning to independence require additional access to supports.
- Child and youth mental health services in BC are currently under review.
Increased Economic Equality
Child and Family Poverty
- BC has the second worst child poverty rate in Canada at 14% and the worst poverty rate for children living in two-parent families at 12%. BC also has the most unequal distribution of income between rich and poor families with children in the country.
- Children of recent immigrants, of Aboriginal identity, living in female lone-parent families, racialized families or with a disability are significantly more likely to live in poverty.
- There are long term health effects to living in poverty as a child. This health inequality results in higher costs to our health and social service systems.
- BC is one of only two provinces without a comprehensive poverty reduction plan.
Raise the Rates
- There was an average of 36,918 children in families on welfare in 2010. Many of these children live in female-led lone-parent families.
- A BC family with two parents and two children living on welfare live $20,457 below the Statistics Canada poverty line for a family of 4 in an urban area. A lone-parent with a toddler lives $11,061 below the poverty line.
- The provincial government claws back $15 million annually in child support payments intended for children whose parents are on income assistance.
Low Wage Family Poverty
- In 2010, 43% of poor children in BC were living in families with at least one adult working full-time, full-year.
- A living wage is calculated based on what a family needs to earn in order to meet their basic living expenses.
- The current minimum wage of $10.25 an hour would leave a full-time, full-year worker living alone $3,000 below the poverty line. A parent with dependent children would need to earn much more than minimum wage to live above the poverty line.
- Over 10,000 children in BC are being raised by a grandparent or relative. Most of these kinship caregivers are single women and many live near or beneath the poverty line.
- Keeping families together leads to the best long term positive outcomes for children. Supporting kinship care providers helps to secure those outcomes and can be the best and the most cost effective support for these children and families over the long term.
Safe and Caring Communities
Protecting children and youth in the workforce
- In BC, children may legally work at age 12.
- This 2003 lowering of the work start age resulted in a ten-fold increase in accepted injury claims for 12 to 14 year olds over a four year period.
- BC is the only Canadian province that does not regulate the occupations, tasks or time of day children (other than during school hours) that are able to work.
Cosmetic Pesticide Ban
- Over 100 studies have linked pesticide exposure to both adult and childhood cancers. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of pesticides because they are closer to the ground and their bodies are still developing.
Unhealthy product promotion to children and youth
- Health organizations like the BC Healthy Living Alliance are calling for governments to tax sugar-sweetened beverages. Research shows that youth are big consumers of these drinks and that increased taxes will result in reduced consumption.
- Food is the most frequently advertised product on children’s television and the majority of these ads target highly sweetened products and/or fast food meals.
- Since 1980, Quebec has prohibited commercial advertising to persons under 13 years of age.
The First Call Election Kit also contains questions under each of these sections for people to ask during all candidates debates, via on-line networking and in mainstream media. It also contains information on how to register to vote.
For the first time, the kit is available in an interactive, online format.