Thousands of Burnaby kids live in poverty

Burnaby has the third highest rate of child poverty in Metro Vancouver, according to a report on child poverty released last week.

The most recent family income data shows 8,580 (23 per cent) of the 37,460 kids who lived in the city in 2013 lived below the poverty line, according to the report by First Call B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition

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That’s higher than the Metro Vancouver rate of 20 per cent, the provincial rate of 20.5 per cent and the national rate of 19 per cent, as measured by Statistics Canada’s after-tax Low Income Measure (LIM).

The First Call report directs most of its criticism for B.C.’s high child poverty rates (the fifth highest in Canada) at the provincial and federal levels of government, calling on the province to adopt a comprehensive poverty reduction plan with legislated targets and timelines.

But, while cities like Burnaby don’t have control over minimum wage rates, income assistance or disability benefits, there are things they can do to make life more affordable for families with low incomes, according to Scott Graham, associate executive director of the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C., one of the organizations behind the report

“When we think of child poverty, we’ve got to look at, ‘Well, what’s eating up the family’s budget?’” Graham told the NOW. “If you’ve got young children and you’re working, child care is a big expense. And everybody needs a place to live, so housing is your next (big) ticket item.”

The report also recommends municipalities adopt a living-wage policy for all direct and contract employees, something neighbouring New Westminster did in April 2010.

Living wage calculations are based on a two-parent family with two children – the most common family unit in B.C. – with each parent working full-time. The current living wage rate for Metro Vancouver is $20.68/hour, nearly twice the minimum wage of $10.45.

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