According to First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition’s annual provincial child poverty report

One-in-five Nanaimo children still live in poverty

NANAIMO – City of Nanaimo says it’s working on strategies to help low-income families meet needs.

With only a minimal drop in Nanaimo’s child poverty rate over the past year, the City of Nanaimo is still working to assist low-income families.

According to First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition’s annual provincial child poverty report, 22.7 per cent of Nanaimo children were in low-income families in 2016 – a drop of 0.2 per cent when compared to 2015.

John Horn, City of Nanaimo social planner, said the city is involved with the Nanaimo Coalition to End Child Poverty, and together with community partners, have put together the “bare bones” of a strategic plan to deal with the issue.

A key issue, said Horn, is establishing a “living wage,” one that enables workers to meet the necessities of life and something the report also calls for. Horn said it is $17.88 an hour for Nanaimo.

“Not all employers we know are going to be able to provide that living wage because some of their margins are just too tiny. There’s some constraints on that. We do want to support the idea, the aspirations of the business community in terms of what is a living wage in Nanaimo.

“We’re going to be updating that on a regular basis to make sure we don’t fall behind inflation,” said Horn.

The coalition is also examining access to quality, affordable child care, Horn said, something also mentioned in the report.

“When parents who are living in low-income households have access to child care that’s affordable for them, it frees them up to do things like take on further education opportunities or go to work to enhance their incomes, to do all sorts of things that will change that picture for the family about being in low income,” said Horn.

He said it’s especially difficult for shift workers. He said a process has begun to assess the community’s child care needs, such as the best place to put child care in the future and best hours.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith Schools Foundation, a non-profit assisting students, said demand hasn’t lessened.

Crystal Dennison, foundation executive director, said Wellington Secondary, Pleasant Valley and Seaview elementary schools have recently been added to receive support through the breakfast program.

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