Dr. Paul Hasselback

Dr. Paul Hasselback

Poverty has gotten worse, new State of the Child Report shows

Nanaimo made gains in areas of health and wellness, but got poor marks for food security.

This community has a role to play in lifting Nanaimo’s children out of poverty.

That’s the message from Dr. Paul Hasselback, medical health officer for Island Health, and politicians, after the release of the 2015 State of the Child Report.

The Greater Nanaimo Early Years Partnership released its second State of the Child Report last Friday, National Child Day. The document is a report card that pulls together statistical comparisons to spark community conversation and help policy makers and program-providers know where to direct resources. It paints a picture of a chronic child poverty problem, with some gains in health, wellness and education, but also more poverty and “increased economic stress.”

While household income increased by 13.3 per cent between 2006 and 2011, food costs were up by a third, rental costs rose 17 per cent and housing prices shot up more than five per cent in a single year, said Hasselback, who says one in three children live in poverty in some areas of Nanaimo.

Poverty has worsened, the report shows, going from 11.3 per cent to 17.6 per cent in the five years since 2006.

There have been community efforts to help children grappling with poverty, including through organizations like the Nanaimo-Ladysmith Schools Foundation and the new Ending Poverty Together Coalition. The early-years partnership has also just launched a ‘one-stop’ website dedicated to directing parents to community resources.

But politicians and Hasselback still point to the community as having a role to play to help children.

The statistics are “damning” and have been consistent for the last 10 to 20 years, according to Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog, who says as a society we either decide to increase wages or pay more taxes to ensure people are lifted out of poverty.

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley called poverty statistics “really disturbing news” and a failure of public policy.

“Onus is on us as a whole community, but particularly elected people regardless of what party they represent to face this head on or we will not address this in the time that these young people require,” he said.

To view the new website by the Nanaimo Early Years Partnership see www.nanaimoearlyyears.org.