"The outcomes of child poverty are not just felt within individual lives, but are experienced by families and entire communities.” – Monika Dutt, Medical Officer of Health, Cape Breton, N.S.
Halifax (26 Nov. 2015) — Child and family poverty in Nova Scotia has increased. The most recent data reveal that 37,650 children, more than 1 in 5, were living in poverty in 2013. According to the 2015 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Nova Scotia, 22.5% of Nova Scotian children were living in families with low incomes. Many families, especially those with very young children, are struggling to make ends meet with incomes well below the poverty line.
Unacceptably high levels of poverty in Cape Breton
Cape Breton still has the highest poverty rate in the province, indeed in Atlantic Canada, where 1 in 3 children (32.4%) live in poverty. We find that the federal riding of Sydney-Victoria has a child poverty rate of 34.5%, and it is even more distressing to know that young children in the Cape Breton Census Area had a poverty rate of 42.7%.
JoAnna LaTulippe-Rochon, Executive Director of Cape Breton's Family Place Resource Centre, shares her thoughts of what these numbers mean: "Imagine for a moment standing in the grocery store needing to make a choice between toothpaste, toilet tissue, or breakfast cereal because you cannot afford all three. For too many of our families, these kinds of choices are a regular part of their reality. Others don't even get to the grocery store to make a choice that week.”
“Measuring progress is different than making progress. It is long past time for us to take our measuring seriously and act! Poverty is painful. It is also preventable. The time to act is now!" adds LaTulippe-Rochon.
Poverty creates a vicious cycle
Reacting to the high poverty rates in Cape Breton, Monika Dutt, Medical Officer of Health for the region, explains: “the outcomes of child poverty are not just felt within individual lives, but are experienced by families and entire communities. Poverty has negative social and health outcomes that then have negative economic impacts, creating a vicious cycle.”
Dutt also says that, “Taking a population health approach requires us to create conditions that allow every family and child to thrive. I am heartened that the wake-up call has been heard and that there are many in our community working together to address child poverty, but greater efforts are needed.”
Ending poverty needs to become a government priority
The report makes clear that ending family and child poverty is achievable and depends to a large degree on governments’ agendas, including their broader social and economic public policy priorities.
Stella Lord, coordinator for the Community Society to End Poverty says, “Nova Scotia desperately needs a comprehensive, effective plan to reduce and prevent poverty. Such a plan should take a health equity approach that at a minimum, should address three important determinants of health -- a livable income, access to decent employment for both women and men, and services such as childcare that promote healthy child development."
"Such a plan would not only reduce and prevent poverty, but would save money on healthcare and other social costs. In the long run it would make our province more productive and prosperous," Lord said.
The new federal government’s promise to invest in a new Canada Child Benefit would be a significant step forward, and if the provincial government made equally significant investments, we could begin to turn the tide and reduce child poverty in Nova Scotia.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE