Pandemic benefits pushed down B.C.’s child poverty rate in 2020: advocacy group

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VANCOUVER — An advocacy group says child poverty decreased in British Columbia in 2020 due to government benefits provided in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but any progress may be wiped out by the rising costs of living. 

The annual B.C. child poverty report card from the First Call Child and Youth Advocacy Society shows the 2020 child poverty rate was 13.3 per cent, a decrease from 18 per cent in 2019.

It’s the largest one-year drop in the rate since 2000, but one in eight children were still living in poverty, and the report says rates were “dramatically higher” among children living on First Nation reserves and those who recently immigrated.

It says all provinces and territories saw large decreases in child poverty rates between 2019 and 2020 because of the pandemic benefits, and without continuing investments in children and families, the rate will likely increase again.

The report released Tuesday says progress toward decreasing the rate and depth of family poverty in 2020 may be wiped out by record-high inflation rates that have increased costs for this year. 

Social Development and Poverty Reduction Minister Sheila Malcolmson says she’s read the report, and she knows inflation is hitting people hard this year.

“Although we exceeded our legislated poverty reduction targets, we’re very aware that a lot of people are suffering right now,” she says.

The NDP government introduced its poverty reduction strategy in 2019, with an aim to reduce overall poverty by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent by 2024. 

Malcolmson says it will soon launch public consultation to revisit the strategy.

“We know we need to do more,” the minister says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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