(British Columbia) The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction has released its What We Heard About Poverty in BC report today, providing an overview of the consultation process that ran from October 2017 to March 2018. The central themes demonstrate the urgent need for an accountable, bold and comprehensive poverty reduction plan for BC.
The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition has long called for a poverty reduction plan. In response to today’s report, Trish Garner, Community Organizer of the Coalition, says, “I am pleased to see that the introductory comments speak to the necessary vision in developing an effective poverty reduction plan: the need to tackle poverty but also inequality; the need to highlight that a poverty reduction plan is good for everyone and contributes to prosperity for all; and the need to honour our international human rights commitments.”
Garner continues, “I look forward to seeing the legislation and plan itself – strong action can’t come soon enough for the 557,000 British Columbians living in poverty.”
Due to low incomes (whether from work, income assistance or pension) and the lack of affordable, rental units, housing is highlighted as the number one challenge throughout BC in the report. Other themes include supports for children and families, mental health and addictions, food security, access to health care, education and training, transportation and access to justice, as well as over-arching issues of racism, colonization and discrimination.
For the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, these challenges prompt a renewed call for an effective poverty reduction plan, which must be accountable, bold and comprehensive to save lives and promote equality.
A plan needs to tackle immediate affordability challenges but, more importantly, go upstream to enhance universal basic services to prevent these challenges in the first place and ensure healthy people and healthy communities throughout our province.
An effective poverty reduction plan must be Accountable, including legislated targets and timelines, annual reports, ensuring all ministries are working together, and respect for the human rights of people in poverty.
It must be Bold, including increasing income supports, in particular, raising welfare and disability rates to the poverty line. An increase to 75 percent of the poverty line would only cost $365 million while lifting everyone to 100% of the poverty line would cost $1.16 billion, just 2% of the provincial budget. Rent control tied to the unit is also a critical, bold measure to reduce poverty and curb sky-rocketing rents throughout BC.
An effective poverty reduction plan must also be comprehensive, including policy measures to address income assistance, low wage work, housing, child care, education, health and equity.
Visit ABCplan.ca to urge Minister Simpson to take effective action.