Child poverty easing in Ontario, report says
TheStar.com – news/canada
Published On Sun Dec 04 2011. Laurie Monsebraaten, Social Policy Reporter
A 2009 decision to boost the Ontario Child Benefit to cushion struggling families during the recession helped pull 19,000 children out of poverty, advocates say in a new report on the province’s anti-poverty efforts.
But on the third anniversary of Ontario’s Dec. 4, 2008 pledge to cut child poverty by 25 per cent by 2013, more action is needed if the province hopes to meet its target, warns the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction in a report being released Monday.
“Given the slow recovery from the recession and growing income inequality, now is not the time for the provincial government to sit on its laurels,” says Mike Creek, chair of the network which represents more than 100 provincial groups and individuals working to eliminate poverty.
“Targeted action is urgently needed, including expanding poverty reduction targets to include adults — especially singles — and addressing equity for groups more at risk of poverty,” adds Creek of Voices from the Street, which provides advocacy training for people with histories of homelessness.
Child poverty in Ontario dropped by 4 per cent to 14.6 child per cent in 2009. However, Ontario’s progress is still a long way off its 25-per-cent goal of lifting 90,000 children out of poverty, the coalition says.
Toronto single mother Jasmine Russell is grateful for the extra $42 a month in child benefits she began receiving in July 2009 for each of her boys ages 8 and 16.
However, the increase, which boosted her monthly child benefit to $92 per child, was offset by welfare restructuring that caused her monthly cheque to drop by almost as much.
If she could complete high school and get a job, then she would be truly ahead, says Russell, who has struggled on and off welfare since she became pregnant as a teenager.
“Every time I got a job, all the money went to babysitting,” she says. “I couldn’t get a (daycare) subsidy to go back to school because I wasn’t in school for enough hours. It was just impossible.”
Russell’s monthly federal and provincial child benefits amount to $793 and barely cover food, clothing and school supplies for her growing boys, she says. Meantime, there is little left from the family’s $971 monthly welfare cheque after Russell pays her $800 rent.
“Everything goes to my boys,” she says, “I buy my clothes at the dollar store or Salvation Army.”
The network’s report says there is common ground across all provincial parties to move forward on poverty reduction.
This includes a new housing benefit to help low-income households and support for the province’s social assistance reform commission, expected to report next summer. All parties have also expressed support for allowing people on welfare to keep more of their earnings from part-time jobs, reviewing the minimum wage, raising the child benefit to $1,310 and strengthening employment protections for vulnerable workers.
Since 2008, Ontario has used Statistics Canada’s Low Income Measure (LIM) after taxes to measure poverty. By this measure, a child living in a family with an income that is less than half of the median family income, after taxes, is considered poor. Russell’s annual after-tax income is about $21,600. The after-tax LIM for a parent and two children in 2009 was about $27,975.
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