One in four Campbell River children live in families struggling to stay above the poverty line, according to the latest statistics compiled by an Early Childhood Education initiative.
Dr. Tanya Flood, who spoke to council Tuesday night on behalf of Success by 6, laid out some illustrative numbers.
“Twenty-five per cent of children live in income-assisted families and twenty-five per cent of School District 72 families make a combined income of less than $30,000 each year,” Flood said.
On top of that, last year one in four children in Campbell River were not developmentally ready to learn when they started kindergarten, according to Flood.
“This is disturbing that children are not developmentally ready,” Flood said.
Vulnerability rates in city neighbourhoods are also above the provincial average.
Campbell River children face vulnerability rates between 22 and 39 per cent, which is above provincial targets.
“Overall the province sets goals to not have more than 15 per cent vulnerability,” Flood said.
The most vulnerable neighbourhood in town?
The Rockland area.
Early Years Development Indicator results show that’s because high housing costs pushed low income families into one neighbourhood, which separated them from the services and resources designed to support them.
Flood said one explanation for increasing low-income rates is the high cost of living.
“Over the last 30 years, the Canadian economy has improved and it has expanded but at the same time we found the standard of living is decreasing for the generation raising young children,” said Flood. “If you adjust for inflation, incomes per household were raised by less than five per cent while housing costs have increased by 70 per cent. Our young families in Campbell River are being squeezed because now two people have to earn salaries to have what one salary could provide years ago.”
Success by 6’s presentation was picked up on by people attending Tuesday’s meeting to protest city council’s proposed budget. Norm Nalleweg, one of 26 people who spoke as delegation separate from Success by 6’s, said council’s proposed 13.6 per cent residential tax increase will only increase the burden on young families.
“The doctor earlier this evening said 25 per cent of children live in poverty,” Nalleweg said. “This is only going to make our situation worse.
“She provided the statistics. You have it right there, so just think about what you’re doing.”
Ray Green, who also spoke to council, said he sees first-hand the struggles Flood alluded to.
“She talked about the poverty of young families,” Green said. “There’s two young families that live next door to me and they’re having a tough go of it. This (tax increase) is only going to make it worse.”
Flood said families are in need of low-budget programs to help alleviate the financial burden.
She said the Campbell River Family Network is working on solutions and Success by 6 has a partnership with the Gathering Place to provide programs in the Rockland area – the most vulnerable neighbourhood.
Flood said other initiatives include Books for Babies, the children’s health fair, community events, educational programs and continued support of the family gym.
Flood thanked council for implementing Success by 6’s request two years ago to provide free transit for families to community events such as the health fair and for increasing the age of free ridership from four years to six.
“When we make child poverty an issue, our city wins,” Flood said.