|A Campaign 2000 local partner||A United Way Member Agency|
On November 24,1989 the House of Commons resolved:
About Campaign 2000
Campaign 2000 is a non-partisan, cross-Canada network of organizations that promotes the elimination of child poverty. On November 24, 1989, the House of Commons resolved: “to seek to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000.” To document the progress of Canada’s all party resolution, Campaign 2000 annually produces a report card on child poverty in Canada. In 1989, 1 in 7 children in Canada were living in poverty. Now in the year 2000, 1 in 5 Canadian children live in poverty. (Campaign 2000: Child Poverty in Canada Report Card 2000).
Why a Report Card on Child Poverty in Halton?
The Halton Social Planning Council is a community partner of Campaign 2000 and along with other partner organizations, produces a local report card on child poverty.
Many of Halton’s families and individuals are affluent. The average annual family income in Halton is $79,930. However, many of Halton’s families have incomes well below the Halton average. In fact, 58,600 families in Halton (61%) have incomes below the average income level and of these families, 12,230 (13%) have annual incomes below $29,000 (Statistics Canada, 1996).
1 in 10 Halton children live in poverty!
What Defines Poverty Level Incomes?
Although there are no official measures of poverty, the most common indicator is Statistics Canada’s “low income cut-offs” often referred to as poverty lines. Low income cut-offs vary by size of community and family size.
- In Halton, the low income cut-off is $28,985 for a family of four -two adults and two children. (Statistics Canada, 1999)
- In 2000 the same family of four on social assistance in Halton receives a maximum of $14,136 a year. This is $14,849 below the low income cut-off.
“[Social Assistance] benefits are not enough just all across the board. I hear people say ‘Oh people on welfare have it so easy’ but they obviously haven’t been there.” (Participant: The Hidden Faces of Poverty, 2000)
- The same family with both parents working at minimum wage have an annual income of approximately $27,400. This is $1,585 below the low income cut-off.
- The Cost of Living in Halton 2000, reports that the basic cost of living (food, rent, clothing, child care and transportation) for the same family of four is $29,062 a year. This is $77 above the low income cut-off and does not include any furnishings, gas, hydro, telephone, toiletries, school and recreation costs.
Who are “the poor” in Halton?
The definition of poverty used in this report is Statistics Canada’s low income cut-offs. The most current Statistics Canada Census Data is 1996.
In Halton, 7,675 children aged 0-14 and 4,585 youth aged 15-24 are poor. This translates to:
- 11% of children living in poverty
- 11% of youth living in poverty
Children are poor because their families are poor. In Halton, 7,140 families are poor, which translates to:
- 8% of all families living in poverty
- 21% of single parents living in poverty
“I have been very fortunate, I have clothes for the kids because I know a lot of people who give me hand-me-downs. But you get so tired of saying ‘no’ because we can’t afford it. I went through four winters without a pair of winter boots. My coat was so thread bare I had to layer three sweaters underneath so I could stay warm outside.” (Participant: The Hidden Faces of Poverty, 2000)
In Halton, 8,630 unattached (single) individuals are poor. This translates to:
- 31% of unattached individuals living in poverty
Women in Halton are more likely to be poor than men.
- 8% of men and 11% of women are living in poverty
Why are families poor?
Poverty is a human construct. The way economic resources are distributed is not a function of unchangeable economic laws, but of political – that is, human — choices.
- Many are poor because they do not have access to appropriate education and training.
- Many are poor because the only jobs available to them are part-time, temporary, low-skilled and low paying jobs.
- Many are poor because they are unable to work and have a physical or mental disability.
- Many are poor because government income support programs are inadequate to cover the cost of basic needs.
- Many are poor because they have fled from abusive relationships.
“I was a tax payer since the time I was 16. I never missed work, and I did everything the way you are supposed to do it, but it didn’t work out the way it’s supposed to. I ended up marrying someone that was abusive and then he left me holding the bag with two little ones. I understand why people stay in abusive relationships –what choice do they have?” (Participant: The Hidden Faces of Poverty, 2000)
What progress have we made…
- The Employment Insurance program has been reduced and restricted in an economy that is oriented to short term and part-time labour.
“I have the education. I have college degrees and I went to university. I am trained in a lot of areas. I work part time and make $400 a month and get that topped up from social services but I need to work full-time. You have to keep looking and take what you can.” (Participant: The Hidden Faces of Poverty, 2000)
- The minimum wage has been frozen at $6.85 an hour since 1995.
- The number of Employment Insurance claims in Halton decreased from 6,062 in September 1995 to 2,574 in September 2000. Although more people are working, fewer people qualify for Employment Insurance.
- Since 1989, the Ontario Works (previously General Welfare Assistance) caseload in Halton has fluctuated from a low of 918 in July 1989 to a high of 3,879 in May 1993 to a current figure of 1,434 in September 2000. (This includes the transfer of provincially administered sole support cases to municipalities as well as a tightening of eligibility requirements in the spring of 1999.)
- Although the Social Assistance and Employment Insurance caseload has decreased, the number of families living in poverty has increased 80%, from 3,975 in 1986 to 7,140 in 1996.
- In 1995 social assistance cheques were cut by 22% and eligibility requirements have been tightened.
“There are a lot of people on the system not through choice but because of their situation and everyone’s situation is different. There were major cuts to our incomes in 1995. The poor are getting poorer. We are living in a two class society.” (Participant: The Hidden Faces of Poverty, 2000)
- Each month in 1999 an average of 3,280 parents, children and single people used one of the eleven food banks in Halton – this includes an average of 1,190 families a month.
“We don’t eat healthy. We use the Salvation Army so that gives us the canned food. But we don’t eat well. The only time we have fresh veggies and fruit is through the community gardens, I have a garden this year. When we run out of milk, I don’t go to the store, we don’t drink milk for the rest of the week.” (Participant: The Hidden Faces of Poverty, 2000)
- Legislation has increased the power of landlords by eliminating rent controls for new tenants.
- Average Halton rent for a 3-bedroom apartment has increased from $740 in October 1989 to $1,040 in October 1999 and vacancy rates are under 1%.
- The proportion of renters in Halton paying more than one-third of their income on shelter increased from 22% in 1986 to 38% in 1996.
- Responsibility for providing social housing has been transferred from the provincial to local municipalities with no commensurate funding.
- The Housing Authority and Rent Supplement wait lists increased from 807 households in July 1989 to 1,140 in July 2000. The waiting list can be as long as 5 years and no new social housing has been built since 1994.
“Affordable housing is an issue in Halton. We just can’t afford to keep up with the rent and the children’s needs. There is a long waiting list. We have been on it for a while, but there is not just me on the list, there are so many people waiting. I was told the average waiting time is 5 years, if you’re on the short list possibly 3 years.” (Participant: The Hidden Faces of Poverty, 2000)
Programs for Families and Children
- The Federal government has increased the amount low-income families receive with the National Child Benefit Supplement; however, families in Ontario and in Halton on social assistance, who are among the poorest of the poor, have the amount deducted from their social assistance benefit cheques.
I’d like to see the government take care of children first. The Canadian government gives low income people money to help but local government takes it away. It’s an extra $50 per month. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know what they are spending the money on but it doesn’t help people who are starving.” (Participant: The Hidden Faces of Poverty, 2000)
- The use of emergency shelters has increased. One family per day was turned away from Halton Women’s Place in 1999 and the number of calls to the Halton Rape Crisis Centre increased from 50 in 1989 to 2,774 in 1999 without a funding increase.
- The average waiting list for subsidized child care in Halton has fluctuated since 1989. As of November 2000, the average number of families waiting per month is 418.
- The devolution of services to local governments and federal and provincial budget choices has lead to the increase of user fees in the health, social, education and recreation services.
What are the consequences?
Many studies, including Statistics Canada’s National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, have demonstrated the links between poverty and child development.
“As family incomes fall, the risk of poor developmental outcomes in children’s health, behaviour, learning and socialization rise.” (Canadian Council on Social Development, Income and Child Well-being: A New Perspective on the Policy Debate, 1999)
“Child poverty is a source of risk to the health and well-being of children and that the condition of poverty limits a child’s life chances, which span a generation.” (Marvyn Novick, Campaign 2000, Fundamentals First: An Equal Opportunity From Birth for Every Child, 1999)
“Canadians with low incomes are more likely to suffer illness and to die than Canadians with high incomes.” (Federal, Provincial and Territorial Advisory Committee on Population Health, Toward a Healthy Future Second Report on the Health of Canadians, 1999)
The impact of poverty on health and well-being is undeniable!
What policies and programs do we need?
A National Children’s Agenda
The National Children’s Agenda represents a commitment of our federal, provincial and territorial governments to act to ensure that all Canada’s children have the best possible opportunity to develop to their full potential as healthy, successful and contributing members of society. The Halton Social Planning Council recommends a full National Children’s Agenda that includes:
Jobs: job creation is a cornerstone in reducing child poverty – when families are working the cost of living is more affordable and there is less pressure on the social safety network.
Income Security: income security programs that prevent families from falling below the poverty line and programs such as the National Child Tax Benefit and Employment Insurance should be expanded to benefit all families.
Education and Training: reinvest and develop further education and employment training programs that reflect the current and future labour market needs.
Affordable Housing: increased funding to provide affordable and emergency housing and support programs.
Social Programs for Families and Children: a continuum of child and youth development services.
Join us in calling for the right recipe for the well-being of all Canadian children.
What can I do?
- Visit the Sign on for Canada’s Kids website and sign the petition pushing for a full National Children’s Agenda by December 2000 and reflected in the federal budget 2001.
- Write or meet with your MP, MPP and local officials establishing the urgency of a full National Children’s Agenda and raise you local issues of concern.
- Support anti-poverty, social justice and other groups trying to reduce the effects of poverty.
- Donate items and donate time to volunteer programs that assist families in meeting basic needs through breakfast programs, food banks or free stores etc.
- Reject the stigmatizing of the poor and end the stereotyping by the words you use.
The Halton Social Planning Council is a community partner, with Campaign 2000, a non-partisan, cross-Canada network, promoting the elimination of child poverty.
For further information contact:
Halton Social Planning Council
860 Harrington Court
Burlington, Ontario L7N 3N4
Tel: (905) 632-1975, Fax: (905) 632-0778,