B.C.'s poverty reduction plan seeks solutions from across government, says minister
Priorities include affordable housing, families, education and raising income and disability rates
The British Columbia government has released guidelines it says will lead it toward the goal of reducing the province's overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent within the next five years.
Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, says the province's first-ever poverty reduction strategy called TogetherBC takes an approach that involves all of the government to assist the 557,000 people who are living in poverty.
He says TogetherBC's programs, policies and initiatives tie together investments launched in the fall of 2017 and are being implemented over three budgets.
He says they include a focus on safe and affordable housing, cutting child-care costs for low-income families and raising income and disability assistance rates.
Simpson says his ministry alone will offer more than $800 million in support to people by 2022 and while those programs and other plans won't end poverty, the NDP government is confident the strategy will help some of B.C.'s poorest.
Simpson made the comments Monday flanked by several anti-poverty and social service experts at a child care resource centre in Surrey.
A step in the right direction
Trish Garner with the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition has been campaigning for a provincewide strategy for many years, so Monday's announcement was welcomed news.
"We're seeing a really good comprehensive framework, which is something we were hoping for," said Garner.
"Is it recognizing cross-ministry responsibilities [like] housing, child care, education, employment, all of these pieces? And we are seeing this approach."
However, she says the strategy leaves certain gaps that need to be addressed, for instance, low income assistance rates.
"We're keeping people in very deep poverty," said Garner.
Right now, a single, employable person on income assistance is eligible for $760 per month.
"We want to know what's coming next because that is still less than half of the poverty line."
With files from Joel Ballard