Alberni gets F for child poverty

City has highest rate of child poverty in B.C., advocacy group says.

Port Alberni has the highest child poverty rate in the province.

Port Alberni has the highest child poverty rate in the province, according to a 2015 B.C. Child Poverty Report Card released Tuesday.

The report, put out by child advocacy group First Call BC, puts Port Alberni in first place for children living in low-income families.

With 31 per cent of all children under the age of 18 living in low-income families, Port Alberni is tied with Duncan for first place. Province-wide, one in five children live in poverty.

In early childhood poverty—ages five and under—Port Alberni scores even worse.

Again tied with Duncan, 37 per cent of all children five and under live in low-income households.

That number, according to First Call BC, is especially concerning.

“Given the critical importance of the early years for children’s development, it is alarming that the child poverty rates for young children was higher than the overall child poverty rate in nearly every urban area in the province,” reads the report.

“The devastating effects of high poverty rates for this age group can include lifelong consequences for children’s physical, cognitive and social development.”

The report showed a correlation between children in lone-parent households and childhood poverty. While lone-parent families only made up 20 per cent of the population, they accounted for half of the children living in poverty.

According to Statistics Canada, 37.5 per cent of Port Alberni families are lone-parent families. That’s compared to 31 per cent on Vancouver Island and 27 per cent province-wide.

Children with disabilities, visible minorities and First Nations are more likely to experience child poverty, according to the report.

Statistics Canada shows that 17 per cent of the Alberni Valley population is First Nations, compared to seven per cent on Vancouver Island and five per cent province-wide.

According to the child poverty report, lone-parent families are much more likely to have food-insecure children.

Only two per cent of two-parent families had food insecure children but that number rose to 14 per cent for lone-parent ones.

That lack of good nutrition has a negative effect on child development.

“Hunger and poor nutrition have well-known effects on children’s growth and development. In addition to the impacts on their physical health, poorly nourished children have trouble concentrating on learning at school and may exhibit behaviour problems,” reads the report.

Housing is another concern for children growing up in poverty.

“In 2011, B.C. was the only province with more than one in 10 children in couple families living in core housing need,” the report states.

A family is considered to be in core housing need if it spends more than one-third of the household’s income on rent, lives in a home needing major repairs or in one without sufficient space.

For children in lone-parent families, the statistics are even worse.

In 2011, 33 per cent of children in lone-parent families in B.C. lived in core housing need.

Core housing need statistics do not include First Nations reserves, of which the Alberni Valley has several.

“The calculated core-housing-need rates do not include households living on First Nations reserves, which often endure deplorable housing conditions,” the report states.

The child poverty report card lists 20 recommendations and calls for a 13 per cent decrease in child poverty rates in B.C. by 2020.

Recommendations include tax reforms, a $10 a day care system and an increased focus on First Nations children.

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