CHILDREN IN CRISIS
Nearly 150,000 children in Alberta – that’s one out of every six kids – currently live in poverty. Poverty is prevalent across the province, but vulnerable groups such as single parents, minimum wage earners, and racialized communities are more susceptible. The result is generation after generation of people who lack access to early education, health care supports, adequate housing, and proper nutrition.
LEARNING AND GROWTH
Poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems, which continues into teens and adulthood.
- Children born into poverty are at a greater risk of low birth weight, poor nutrition and subsequent health issues, developmental delays, abuse and neglect, and behavioral and socioemotional problems.
- Many children in poverty arrive at school with developmental and behavioral disadvantages, which adversely effect academic outcomes
- Children in poverty are less likely to graduate high school
- Lack of education, supports, and chronic health conditions can lead to unemployment and adult poverty
THE WORKING POOR
Many children living in poverty have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet. Low-income earners face obstacles finding affordable housing, arranging transportation to and from work, buying basic necessities, arranging childcare, having unpredictable work schedules, and juggling two or more jobs.
Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty.
Read more on child poverty here: The Path Forward: Opportunities to End Child Poverty in Alberta
QUALITY CHILD CARE
- Provide greater access to affordable, quality child care spaces to ensure that those wanting to participate in the work force or to increase their earning power through training or education can do so, particularly for women and single parents
- Develop a strategy to support child care centres implementing the province’s new curriculum framework.
- Continuing investments should be made to help support increased access to child care spaces for families with infants, children with special needs, and those living with lower incomes
- Improve hours of accessibility to child care spaces
- Establish child care centres in underutilized schools and require all new schools and other publicly-owned facilities to incorporate additional space for early childhood and after school programs
- All orders of government should adopt living wage policies for contracted services
- Provide additional support for language and employment training for Albertans who need to upgrade their skills and literacy or be re-skilled
- Increase social assistance rates, which are currently the lowest in Canada, and index income support programs like Alberta Works and Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped to inflation
- Increase earnings exemptions and asset limits to make income support programs more fair and effective at lifting Albertans out of poverty
- Increase direct to tenant rent subsidies to enhance affordability for low-income families and individuals in the rental market
- Remove the budget cap on rent supplements, which currently leaves eligible Albertans without that support after the budgeted amount has been spent each year
- Ensure affordable housing units are available in all neighbourhoods and municipalities
- Significantly increase asset limits for eligibility to social housing and lengthen the transition time for Albertans moving out of social housing
- Extend the Alberta Adult Health Benefit to low-income working Albertans
- Extend the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit to all low-income Albertans, including those without children
ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN
From Poverty to Progress is a campaign coordinated by Public Interest Alberta to educate the public on the problem of child poverty in Alberta and to mobilize the public to speak out for greater investments in poverty reduction. The number of children living in poverty in Alberta has remained virtually unchanged for 25 years. Helping children and their parents who continue to live in poverty must remain a priority.
From Poverty to Progress is a step towards ending the cycle of child poverty.
The campaign was launched on August 16, 2017 and includes:
- alarming child poverty statistics and their effect on children
- steps to be taken to reduce child poverty
- take action, sign our petition - From Poverty to Progress
The NDP government has made some significant positive steps to alleviate poverty:
- increased funding to Family and Community Support Services
- increased funding for women’s shelters
- increasing minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018
- created a Status of Women Ministry
- funded 22 Early Learning and Care Centres
- implementing an ambitious Alberta Child Benefit focused on supporting our lowest-income families
Despite these actions, Alberta’s women and children are still affected the most by income disparity. Children are overrepresented among Alberta’s poor; they represent 22 percent of the population but comprise 30 percent of all people living in poverty. Many families continue to struggle to afford quality, and accessible child care. Women are disproportionately affected by the lack of access to child care because it hinders their ability to fully participate in the economy, while children in poverty do not have access to quality care and early interventions.
Alberta needs a poverty-reduction strategy to prevent, reduce, and ultimately eliminate poverty in Alberta. This strategy should align with the local poverty reduction initiatives that are happening in municipalities across the province in order to effectively meet community needs.
The strategy needs to include good jobs at living wages that ensure full-time work is a way out of poverty; an effective child benefit that is indexed; a system of affordable accessible early learning and child care services available to all families; an affordable housing program that creates more affordable housing and helps to maintain existing properties; an affordable and accessible post-secondary education system, and training programs that prepare youth and adults for employment leading to economic independence.