VICTORIA - The Province and the Union of BC Municipalities have identified seven communities to participate in a pilot project where poverty-reduction strategies will target the unique needs of families struggling to get out of poverty in those communities.
Prince George, Cranbrook, Port Hardy, Surrey, New Westminster, Stewart and Kamloops have been identified as the first to pilot community poverty-reduction strategies. These communities were recommended by the UBCM to reflect a mix of metro, urban, rural and remote communities across B.C.
"Communities are different. Families are different. That is the essence of this project that promotes collaboration and sharing new, innovative ideas that recognize each community and each family has distinctive needs and resources," said Mary McNeil, Minister of Children and Family Development. "The goal is to provide low-income families with tailor-made springboards out of poverty by focusing on their strengths - not just their needs."
The ministry is appointing seven community poverty strategy consultants to forge partnerships with local governments, community organizations and local businesses. The consultants will co-ordinate and lead community teams in developing action plans that address the needs of families living in poverty. Action plans with measurable targets will be developed over the summer with implementation scheduled for September 2012.
The strategies will optimize existing resources and will initially focus on families with children living in poverty. They will be guided by feedback from town hall meetings, community discussions and conversations with low-income families and individuals vulnerable to poverty. Key to developing successful strategies is recognition that each community has distinctive needs and resources.
Community teams will take responsibility for the day-to-day implementation of the project. Key to these strategies is working directly with families to understand their individual needs, connect them with supports and to develop personalized paths out of poverty designed by families themselves.
"By customizing strategies to draw upon the assets in each community, this initiative will provide better support to families in need," said UBCM President Heath Slee. "UBCM has been pleased to work closely with province on this project and we look forward to contributing more as part of the Provincial Steering Committee."
"We firmly believe that helping people find their way out of poverty goes beyond addressing immediate needs and requires governments, businesses and community-based service providers to work collectively in developing approaches that address the underlying factors that result in families living in poverty," said Executive Director of the United Way of Northern British Columbia Trevor Williams. "It is encouraging to see that this initiative involves a number of key partners in addressing the issue of families vulnerable to poverty."
The Province will appoint a provincial steering committee, including representatives from provincial cabinet, the UBCM, the voluntary sector and the business community to guide the project.
Once the project has been implemented in the first seven communities, it will be evaluated and expanded to include 20 more communities each year for the next two years. Future strategies will be based on the successes of participating pilot communities and innovative approaches used successfully in other jurisdictions.
For more information on supports for vulnerable families please visit http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/ministries/children-and-family-development/factsheets/reducing-poverty-for-low-income-families.html
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Ministry of Children and Family Development
UBCM Healthy Communities Committee
604 270-8226 ext. 110