Alberta Child Poverty Report – Edmonton Journal Op-Ed

Feb 10, 2020 | ESPC in the News, F.04 POVERTY, F.07 CHILDREN

https://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-ending-child-poverty-in-alberta-is-our-moral-obligation

Alberta Child Poverty Report Edmonton Journal Op-Ed

By Joel French, Sandra Ngo, and Ajay Hartenfeld Pandhi

Every night, 160,000 children in Alberta suffer the all-encompassing effects of poverty. They are more vulnerable to issues affecting mental health, educational attainment, cognitive development, housing, relationships, employment, and food insecurity throughout their lives. In a province as wealthy as Alberta, it is an outrage for child poverty to persist.

The Alberta College of Social Workers, Edmonton Social Planning Council, and Public Interest Alberta have recently released a new report on the state of child and family poverty in Alberta, “Invest in Families: Ending Child Poverty is Good for All.” Currently, one in six children live in poverty. While some, small progress has been made, poverty rates among children in single-parent households has actually seen an increase.

Children who grow up in low-income situations are more likely to remain in low income status into adulthood. Children living with a single parent are five times more likely to live in low-income households. Immigrant and Indigenous children are especially vulnerable. Furthermore, children who experience trauma, such as family violence, encounter poorer outcomes across all the factors of health.

Child poverty is especially persistent among Indigenous children. Nationwide, 47 per cent of First Nations children live in poverty while the rate of poverty for non-Indigenous children sits at 12 per cent. Due to this disparity, Indigenous children have higher rates of contact with child intervention services in Alberta. Sixty-nine per cent of children in government care are Indigenous, which has been on the rise. Due to a long history of discrimination, Indigenous children are more likely to be affected by trauma and mental health issues, low high school completion rates, unemployment, and homelessness. Ending child poverty is essential for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples for generations of harm.

What can we do to end child poverty once and for all in Alberta? The research shows that strong investments into Alberta’s families, including child benefits, nutrition programs, affordable housing, and subsidized, quality child care, are key to ending the cycle of poverty that block children from living lives of dignity where they’re able to thrive. To aid in reconciliation efforts, culturally responsive solutions that provide Indigenous governing bodies with oversight for the education and welfare of children on reserves is a necessity.

Child care is one of the biggest household expenses, which can be up to two-thirds of a low-income family’s monthly income. Access to high-quality, universally accessible, and affordable child care is a proven method for lowering child poverty and is an especially profound intervention for single mothers, who are among the most affected by poverty. Studies show that children in universal, low-cost child care have better physical health, developmental, and psychological conditions by age six. The $25-a-day child care program is under threat by our provincial government’s sweeping and cruel cuts to social programs. This is precisely the wrong direction for Alberta to solve the crisis in child and family poverty.

Investing in affordable housing is a necessity to prevent and combat child poverty. While multiple levels of government have created housing strategies to address homelessness and poverty, uncertainty persists on the province’s commitment to their share of affordable housing initiatives after the UCP took power. With a 24 percent cut to the Rental Assistance Program, the risk of eviction to low-income families and children will increase as a result.

What is sorely missing in the discussion surrounding the provincial government’s relentless “path to balance” is that even maintaining the status quo levels of social assistance would not be enough; yet the government has chosen to cut indexing of these supports, making life even harder for those in poverty. And if we are serious about ending child poverty, it is abundantly clear that vital public services Albertans rely on need to be strengthened, not cut. Cuts to public services hurt the most vulnerable in our province.

Our tax system raises significantly less revenue than any other province. As a result of this shortfall, our services are stretched thin and progress in tackling child poverty will continue to be stymied until significant revenue reform occurs. Alberta also remains the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction strategy, meaning we are sorely behind in setting measurable goals and tracking progress in these efforts. Without a robust strategy backed up with action, young Albertans trapped in poverty will only fall further behind.

We have a moral obligation to end child poverty in our province, and the result would be a more healthy and compassionate society for all of us.

Joel French is Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta.

Sandra Ngo is Research Coordinator of the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

Ajay Hartenfeld Pandhi is President of the Alberta College of Social Workers.

Connect With Us

Donate Today!

Your donation helps us do our work. It keeps our social research current and comprehensive. It allows us to take on bigger projects and make a greater impact in the community

Become a Member

By getting involved with the Edmonton Social Planning Council, you add your voice to our message of positive social development and policy change.

Apply To Be A Volunteer

We have many volunteer opportunities including Research Reviews and Newsletter Writing, Focus Groups, Special Events, Photography and/or Videography, Casino, Board of Directors.
Email and Newsletter Subscription

Please fill out the form to subscribe to our email and newsletter. We will keep you informed of important announcements and events and share our newsletter the fACTivist.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Edmonton Social Planning Council
10544 - 106 Street NW, Suite 200 (Bassini Building)
Edmonton, Alberta T5H 2X6
780-423-2031.

Business Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Please note our office is temporarily closed to the public.

Due to the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic, the Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC) is taking precautionary measures to do our part in slowing the spread of the disease.

The ESPC physical office will be closed effective March 16, 2020, until further notice. We will continue to work and serve our community and clients remotely. All of us at ESPC have the necessary resources to work remotely with little disruption to our scheduled project deliverables.

Please note that by working remotely, emails will be answered, but phone calls may take longer to respond too. We would recommend email or our website contact form as the quickest way to connect with us.

Additionally, all in-person ESPC events and meetings have been cancelled. We will be monitoring the situation and decide soon on the status of our Annual General Meeting and the scope of our 80th Anniversary celebrations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly changing issue, we recommend you stay informed, please refer to the Alberta Government website and the City of Edmonton website for local updates.

 

Read More

* Please note that we are not a government department or direct service provider. We do not provide individuals with information about social benefit programs (i.e. AISH, workers compensation benefits, etc.). If you have questions about these services, please dial 211 or access online by clicking here. For assistance with provincial programs, Alberta Supports can help you access more than 30 programs and 120 community services https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-supports.aspx.

Subscribe to our Email and NewslettersWhen you subscribe to our email list, you can expect a modest number of updates from the Edmonton Social Planning Council, which will include notices of new reports and publications, upcoming events, mentions of ESPC in the news, as well as selected announcements from our partner organizations.

The strength of our voice is dependent on the support of people and organizations concerned about social issues; people like you! The Edmonton Social Planning Council is a non-profit charitable organization that is funded by personal donations, memberships, and project funders.  If you would like to be more involved please consider a membership, donation or becoming a volunteer.