Every year, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services receives input from British Columbians on issues affecting them and what the priorities should be for the next budget. The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition wrote a submission to the all-party committee pushing for the substantial investment needed for an effective poverty reduction plan. The Committee’s final report includes 106 recommendations for the next provincial budget and provides a summary of the concerns and priorities put forward by British Columbians. We are shocked and disappointed that for the first time in many years, these recommendations do not include a call to increase welfare and disability rates.
On a positive side, the following recommendations fit within the seven pillars of an accountable, bold and comprehensive poverty reduction plan.
- Invest in accountability measures for the poverty reduction plan that includes a comprehensive framework with cross-ministry responsibilities and investments, a gender-based lens on policy and practice, a commitment to reconciliation, and measures to reduce and prevent poverty.
- Review the funding formula for post-secondary institutions to address funding challenges, and barriers and inequities to access.
- Review and evaluate grant models to ensure funding is responsive and provides the most impactful support for reducing barriers and inequities to access.
- Ensure that K-12 funding is adequate in meeting the province’s commitment to reconciliation, including ensuring adequate staffing for implementing culturally appropriate programming in BC schools.
- Increase investments to expand the continuum of home support to residential care services, including funding for home support programs to enable seniors to age in place and funding to increase the number of residential care spaces.
- Ensure stable, quality care in residential care facilities by reviewing and establishing minimum staffing levels, equalizing compensation, reviewing sub-contracting of care and services, and addressing recruitment and retention challenges.
- Advocate to the federal government for increased federal funding for health care.
- Continue to explore with the federal, provincial and territorial governments the establishment of a universal pharmacare plan.
- Ensure health program spending demonstrates alignment with—and concrete actions to make progress on—the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Calls to Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
- In partnership with local and Indigenous communities and organizations, continue to invest in homelessness prevention and encourage creative solutions to homelessness, including specific attention to the provision of supports, services and housing for youth at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
- Ensure investments in the continuum of services for mental health and addiction needs, including funding for integrated, wrap-around support services with housing.
- Continue to increase funding for legal aid.
- Address barriers and limitations to access to legal aid for British Columbians experiencing intimate-partner or gender-based violence.
- Provide support programs and services that promote the safety and security of all individuals who engage in sex work, regardless of gender, circumstance or type of sex work, without the sole focus being on exiting or human-trafficking services.
- Increase funding for all early intervention services to ensure timely access to critical services, such as speech-language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, and to ensure children do not age out of early intervention services before receiving critical support.
- Provide ongoing and appropriate funding to ensure that children and families in BC can access publicly-funded early years mental health services.
- Review tax benefit provisions for parents with a child in temporary care within the context of supporting family reunification and cultural safety.
- Broaden eligibility and adopt a needs-based lens for the Agreements with Young Adults program to provide comprehensive, flexible supports to former youth in care.
- Increase and expand HandyDART service.
- Work with local governments and transit authorities to explore new pricing mechanisms to help make public transit more accessible for youth and low-income families.
- Work with public and private operators to address gaps in the provision of regional transportation services, particularly in rural and remote areas.
- Continue to make comprehensive investments in child care to improve access and affordability.
- Fund adequate training, professional development, compensation, equipment and other incentives to recruit and retain workers in the social services sector.
- Partner and engage in integrated planning with the community social services sector across relevant ministries, including providing dependable, multi-year funding to enable effective planning and execution, with a focus on measuring and monitoring outcomes.
- Ensure adequate funding and staffing for the Employment Standards Branch and Labour Relations Board to enable them to effectively enforce employment law.
- Provide long-term training and education to low-income individuals to enable them to transition into stable, well-paying jobs.
- Review the framework for earnings exemptions, including the levels and month-based structure, to remove arbitrary barriers.