Lissa Alexander, Parksville Qualicum Beach News
B.C. has the highest child poverty rate in the country and Parksville is no exception.
An audience of about 40 people heard presentations from the First Call B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition and from an advocate for $10-a-day Child Care Plan during a community forum in Parksville last week. The event was put on by the District 60 Living Wage for Families Coalition.
Based on statistics from 2011, Parksville’s child poverty rate for children under six years old is 27 per cent, and for single mothers it is 48 per cent, which means one in every two children living with a single mother in the area is living in poverty. The statistic for single mothers with children ages six to 17 in the area is at 66 per cent.
First Call B.C. releases an annual Child Poverty Report Card and makes recommendations to the province.
Adrienne Montani with First Call B.C. told the audience that child poverty in the province stems from systemic issues, and isn’t because a bunch of people have made a bunch of bad decisions or are lazy, as some people seem to think.
“Most poor children in this province live with parents who work, so child poverty is a story of working poor.”
Seventy-five per cent of those children are living with parents who either work full or part time. If parents are already working full time, what does society expect them to do to get themselves out of poverty? she questioned.
“What does that tell you? They are not making enough money,” she said.
The parents who qualify for income assistance are the poorest of the poor, Montani said, and the province has been shrinking the income people get on income assistance, she said.
Similarly, to qualify for subsidy to help pay for child care in the province you have to have a very low income, Sharon Gregson reported. She’s an advocate for the $10-a-day Child Care plan, a former Vancouver School Board Trustee and mother of four.
“If you’re poor enough to qualify for the subsidy you’re actually too poor to pay the difference and afford the real fees,” she said.
Those who qualify for Child Care subsidy have income less than $33,000 a year or $21,000 a year for the parents of a school-aged child.
The average childcare cost for a toddler in Vancouver is over $1,200 a month, Gregson reported. The Early Years Strategy that the provincial government is rolling out is not going to fix the child care crises in the province, Gregson said. Part of that plan is the new early childhood tax benefit of $55 dollars a month that will go to parents of children under the age of six next year. This will cost the province $146 million, she said.
“Realistically $55 a month is not going to lift any family out of poverty, it’s not going to really make child care any more affordable for anybody and it’s not going to give mothers the choice between working or not working.”
Although the BC Living Wage for Families Coalition spokesperson was sick and couldn’t make it, Montani, who is very familiar with the information, went over his presentation. She said Parksville stands out in the province as having child care costs higher than accommodation, although it was explained that the accommodation prices are identified by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation by taking average rents over the last six years.
A living wage is different from the minimum wage, she explained, it is calculated separately in each region and represents the minimum people need to make hourly to meet basic living expenses such as food, clothing, shelter, transportation and child care. In District 69 the Living Wage is $17.80. This is the minimum two parents with two children can make, each working full-time, to stay above the poverty line.