A new report released today surveyed 1,000 low income people in British Columbia and found the health and social impacts of economic hardship to be devastating, ranging from stress to skipping meals to not socializing. Due to low incomes (whether from work, income assistance or pension), housing and food costs are highlighted as the number one challenges throughout BC, followed by health, debt and transportation.
With the What We Heard report from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction coming out tomorrow providing an overview of the government’s consultation process, the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition is renewing its call for an effective poverty reduction plan for BC.
A poverty reduction plan must be accountable, bold and comprehensive to save lives and promote equality.
Over half the respondents to the survey experience some form of social cost including not socializing, sacrificing kids’ activities, not travelling, no entertainment, and lack of interaction with family and friends. 1 in 5 respondents have skipped meals. As Paul says, “I myself am the one who goes without food everyday so that my wife has enough and my stepson has good food to take for school lunch etc. I sometimes get so very weak from malnutrition that I can’t think properly.” [Click here to read the full report]
So far, the government has undertaken a poverty reduction consultation from October 2017 to March 2018, and plans to table legislation in the fall and launch the full plan in February 2019. 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.
According to the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, it’s as simple as ABC! Members of the government’s Poverty Reduction Advisory Forum joined the Coalition at a press conference earlier today outlining the ABC Plan.
- 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.