WATCH: BC NDP increase income assistance rates by $100 a month but province’s new poverty reduction minister admits it won’t solve the problem. Tess van Straaten reports.
Victoria’s Crystal Clarke says she struggles to make ends meet.
“I’m going to the food banks, I’m going to the second hand stores,” says Clarke, who has a young son and another child on the way. “My son’s jumped four sizes in the last three months so in and out of clothes is very expensive.”
Clarke, who has anxiety and dyslexia, has been on and off income assistance for the last few years because she’s had trouble finding a permanent job and can’t afford child care.
“It doesn’t really work going to a job when you’re supposed to pick him up from school at 2:30 p.m. and you have to be there at 9 a.m. and you only have those short hours,” Clarke says. “I’ve also had trouble reading things with my dyslexia, especially abbreviations, and people get angry at me and it causes me a lot of anxiety.”
After a decade of frozen rates, British Columbia’s new NDP government announced Thursday that social assistance rates will increase by a $100 a month in September.
A person on disability will receive $1,133 and a someone on income assistance will get $710 after the increase takes effect.
“This kind of step, placing a priority on poverty reduction this early on, makes us feel much more optimistic than we have in a long time,” says Stephen Portman of the Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS).
Portman and other anti-poverty advocates are applauding the move, but say much more needs to be done.
“We’re in the province with the highest poverty rate in Canada, a province that’s had the highest child poverty rate for over a decade, so there’s major systemic change that needs to happen,” Portman says.
B.C.’s new poverty reduction minister agrees.
“Obviously, $100 isn’t going to solve the problem and we know that,” says social development and poverty reduction minister Shane Simpson. “This is the first step in moving to take on the challenge of poverty and poverty reduction.”
With half a million British Columbians living in poverty, Simpson says it’s not just about money but core issues that cause it that need to be addressed.
“How do we attack the cycle of poverty and that means dealing with housing, it means dealing with education and training, it means childcare, it means transportation and a $15 minimum wage,” says Simpson.
B.C.’s the only province without a legislated poverty reduce plan.
The New Democrats are now pledging to implement one and say they plan to consult people living in poverty.
For Crystal Clark, who’d like to re-train as a cook, she say the extra $100 is a good start.
“I’m excited because it would be nice to afford to buy the bus pass instead of walking,” she says.