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Richmond group studies poverty

Having a job doesn't necessarily shield you from hardship

The 2012 Child Poverty Report Card, released by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition last Wednesday doesnt offer specific statistics regarding Richmond, however its conclusion appears to mirror a local trend: Having a job doesnt necessarily guard you from poverty.

Its been difficult finding individual community results, but Ive made some calls to get child poverty data for Richmond, said Helen Davidson, of Richmond Children First.

Were hearing that theres a lot more working poor in the city, where both parents are working in most cases. With the increasing cost of food, gas, etc., a familys income does not go as far these days.

Anecdotally, were hearing that the Richmond Food Bank is seeing more working families and attendance is also up at community meals.

Using the latest statistics in 2010, the Child Poverty Report Card found B.C.s child poverty rate fell in that year to 10.5 per cent after tax, from 12 per cent in 2009.

The coalition estimates 87,000 children in the province live in poverty.

The figure brings B.C. closer to the national average at 8.2 per cent, but it still has the second highest rate in Canada, with Manitoba in the top spot.

Most pressing is to move from an ideological agenda of job creation and low taxes to solutions with more of an impact such as increasing minimum wage and welfare rates, decreasing tuition fees and providing better funding for childcare, according to First Calls provincial coordinator, Adrienne Montani.

Not all jobs are good jobs. Are we only creating low wage jobs? Decreasing tuition fees would allow better access to higher education so people can find more meaningful employment.

Childcare is the next highest expense beside the exorbitant housing costs.

In order to get a clearer picture of poverty in Richmond, The Face of Child Poverty in Richmond project aims to engage parents and children about what it means for children to live in poverty here, said Davidson of the Children First study.

At Wednesdays meeting, the committee put final touches on a survey to send out to organizations about formal and informal supports offered for low-income families.

The project hopes to craft a study with concrete figures and experiences in order to move forward and create policy change.

Throughout the past few months, it worked with more than 3,000 kids, ages three to 12, to put together a Childrens Charter.

The kids wrote down what they viewed as their rights, such as, the right to play, the right to nutritious food and the right to be heard.

City council endorsed the charter in June, and the organization is seeking further endorsement from the Richmond Public Library, the Board of School Trustees and Richmond nonprofit organizations working with children.

Children First is not the only organization calling for a move away from band-aid solutions such as charities and food banks towards real policy change.

Were really working to support the Richmond Food Bank, or a blanket drive, said Sue Burford president of the Richmond chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women.

But these are short-term solutions, we need a commitment from the city to address things like childcare funding.

Last the spring, the CFUW passed a motion to support poverty-related initiatives. To this end, the Richmond branch will host the screening of Poor No More next Wednesday, Dec. 5.

In partnership with Richmond Poverty Response Committee, VCH and UniteHere, a panel discussion will follow the screening, featuring panelists Lesley Richardson from CFUW Richmond, Dr. Ted Bruce, BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, Michael McCarthy-Flyn of Family Services of Greater Vancouver and Michelle Travis from UniteHere.

The CFUW Richmond also plans to present briefs on food security in connection with poverty in the new year.