Child Poverty – it affects us all

imageThe Trinity Hall was filled to capacity last night as Powell River residents turned out for a community discussion on child poverty. “It was an exceptional evening,” said Murray Dobbin, spokesperson for Powell River Voices which organized the event. “I had to turn the lights out to get people to leave!”

More than 80 local residents, including five City Councillors, MP Rachel Blaney, and Maggie Hathaway, representing MLA Nicholas Simons, sat in rapt attention as three guest speakers set forth facts about child poverty in BC. Left – David Parkinson at the Food Security round table discussion.

Adrienne Montani, program coordinator for First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, stated, “One in five children in BC live in poverty,” she said. “That is more than 165,000 kids in the province – enough to fill Disneyland eight times.”

Child poverty is not a new issue and communities can be proactive in finding solutions that will help struggling families. “Research has long demonstrated that poverty is toxic to children’s health and development. From poor nutrition to family stress to exclusion from social participation, there are many ways poverty is known to raise the risk of lifelong ill effects on health and reduce opportunities for children and youth to realize their full potential,” Morani said. “And, despite consistently high rates of child poverty in BC, there has been little concrete action taken by provincial or federal governments.”

Panel members Lyn Adamson, Executive Director of Powell River Employment Programs Society and Russell Brewer, City of Powell River Councillor, added a local perspective to the issue. “Poverty is a growing problem in our community,” Adamson said. “For example, Career Link posted 1,460 jobs last year – a good sign for the economy, but the vast majority of the jobs were in the service industry and were offering $12 or less per hour.”

The living wage in Powell River is $21 per hour. “Working 35 hours a week at a $12 per hour job, you take home $690 every two weeks after deductions,” Adamson said. “If you’re a single parent, childcare costs $800 per month, so how can a parent afford to work, pay childcare, pay rent and bills and feed their family?”

Compounding the problem, rental properties in Powell River are at a premium. “The vacancy rate in town is 1%,” Adamson added. “A one bedroom apartment averages about $600 a month and a two bedroom house is between $700-$900 per month. Welfare rates haven’t increased for eight years and a single person receives $375 for shelter.”

Following the panel presentations, round table discussions began, tackling five core issues: Education, Food Security, Child Care, Social Cohesion and Housing. Each group put forward suggestions and ideas to address their topic. “At the Education table, we had an amazing group of people involved” Murray Dobbin said. “It included our school district superintendent, a principal, a union president and several teachers.”

Notes taken from each table discussion will be compiled and sent out to participants in the coming week, including next steps.  Things have to change for children throughout the province, according to Councillor Brewer. “We don’t have a family first agenda in this province,” he said. “We have a fracking first agenda.”


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