The B.C. government and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities today released the Community Poverty Reduction Pilot Projects 2014 Progress Report, which highlights the importance of cross-government and community partnerships to address poverty throughout the province.
When the pilot projects launched in May 2012, UBCM recommended the participating communities - Cranbrook, Kamloops, New Westminster, Port Hardy, Prince George, Stewart and Surrey - to reflect a mix of B.C.’s metro, urban, rural and remote communities. Family consultants from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) were assigned to work collaboratively with community partners to build local teams, with the goals of identifying the key barriers families face, connecting families directly to the services they need, and creating community plans that innovatively work towards addressing these barriers.
Through their work in each community, the MCFD family consultants confirmed that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to poverty. Different communities expressed different priorities based on the needs of their local families. For example, in Stewart, participating families identified transportation and food security as barriers; whereas in Kamloops, health, housing and education were recognized as among the most important issues to address. A key priority in all communities was to ensure that the families knew about the existing programs and services offered by community agencies and all levels of government, and that they were also supported in accessing them.
Families who participated directly in the pilot projects described the work as “priceless.” Their quality of life improved, barriers were lifted and stress levels declined. Many families either were not aware of the services and supports available, or did not know how to access them prior to their participation in the pilot projects. The one-to-one support they received made a difference in their lives. One parent said their family consultant “has taken a difficult situation and has proceeded to make it an easy one.”
The Province will continue to target initiatives that offer safe and affordable housing, ensure food security and support the overall health for British Columbians, and will continue to work with municipal, federal and community services partners to build on the foundation of the work to date. The Province’s actions to support this progress report’s findings include:
- Asking that Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart act as a poverty liaison. She will visit each pilot community and work with all levels of government and community organizations to help move their community plans forward.
- Working with major industry and small business to increase employment opportunities and advance economic development, skills training and job growth.
- Continuing to support the work of the MCFD family consultants in each community, and working to broaden the access points for one-on-one support.
The Province and UBCM will report on the status and success of these pilots by July 30 each year. The progress report is posted on the ministry website at: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/pdf/community_poverty_reduction.pdf
- The B.C. government introduced a number of supports and services that have helped lower the province’s child poverty rate by 41% since 2003 (19.2% in 2003 to 11.3% in 2011).
- Government has increased the minimum wage three times, to $10.25 per hour, making it amongst the highest in Canada.
- B.C. families generally have one of the lowest overall tax burdens in Canada, including income taxes, consumption taxes, property taxes, health-care premiums and payroll taxes. Provincial personal income taxes for most taxpayers have been reduced by 37% or more since 2001. Today, an additional 400,000 people no longer pay any B.C. income tax.
- A full suite of employment services are offered through 85 WorkBC Employment Services Centres throughout the province. Since launching in April 2012, these centres have served more than 146,000 people and the results are encouraging - with case-managed support, between 40 and 50% of people have consistently found employment.
- Since 2001, the number of people dependent on income assistance has dropped 29%, meaning 71,000 fewer British Columbians are collecting income assistance in 2014 than in 2001.
- More than 800,000 B.C. residents do not pay Medical Services Plan premiums.
- Government has invested $3.6 billion since 2001 to provide affordable housing around the province - approximately $400 million this fiscal year - and more than 98,000 B.C. households will benefit from provincial social housing programs and services this year as well.
- More than 19,000 B.C. families live in provincially subsidized housing, and a further 10,000 families receive rental assistance to help keep the cost of private-market rent more affordable. Since 2001, government has added close to 21,000 new units of affordable housing.
- In 2015, government will introduce the new BC Early Childhood Tax Benefit to improve the affordability of child care and help almost 180,000 families with the cost of raising young children. When combined with other federal tax benefits, a single mother with one child under the age of six will receive about $5,500 a year, and a couple with two children under six will receive about $10,800.
In addition, the Province created the $1,200 BC Training and Education Savings Grant to help parents save for their child’s post-secondary education.
Ministry of Children and Family Development