Everyone is gearing up for the Christmas season, that wonderful time of year focused on giving. There are food drives collecting for the food bank, and campaigns of all kinds to help those in need, including toy drives trying to ensure all children have something waiting for them under the Christmas tree.
This is a great thing, and it is good-hearted people that both organize and contribute to them. But the best they can hope for, and it is a good goal, is to alleviate some of the need. The sad fact is, the issue of child poverty is not going to be solved by once a year campaign.
According to the annual report released by First Call, a coalition of advocacy groups, child poverty is on the rise in B.C. rather than declining. According to the B.C. Child Poverty Report Card, 169,240 children were living below the poverty line in this province in 2012. Last year, the report said 153,000 children.
It’s not a problem Penticton is immune to. The signs are everywhere: in the Youth Esteem report created last year, one-quarter of the interviewees identified poverty as one of the top issues for Penticton youth; the SOWINS Share the Spirit campaign helped 200 women and children last year and last month, the Salvation Army Food Bank gave away 351 hampers, which helped feed 236 children. It’s also sad that this is a problem that will likely never be eliminated completely, but First Call set out 19 recommendations in their report with a goal of reducing the provincial child poverty rate to seven per cent by 2020.
The recommendations cover a range, from raising the minimum wage to increased child tax benefits and rescinding cuts to Employment Insurance. But what they all have in common is the need for provincial and federal governments to address the problem.
We applaud the efforts of those who fight, especially at this time of year, to make our community, and the world, a better, warmer place. But when we see the enormity of the problem of child poverty, it is clear it is time for upper levels of government to join in the fight to make some long-term change.