TORONTO, Feb. 6, 2012 /CNW/ - Ontario cannot afford to have the poverty
reduction strategy sit on the margins, warns Ontario Campaign 2000. The
economic and social potential of the province is at risk of being
further eroded if the austerity agenda is given precedence over the
wellbeing of Ontario's children and their families. The government no
longer has a choice in whether or not to concentrate on poverty
reduction over other policy areas - poverty reduction must be a
necessary part of overall public decision-making.
The 2011 report card, Poverty Reduction in an Age of Uncertainty and Change, focuses on child, family and youth poverty and finds that 393,000
children are still living in poverty in Ontario. Even though 19,000 children were lifted
out of poverty in the first year of the Ontario government's poverty
reduction strategy, the province has to help tens of thousands of more
children before the 25% child poverty reduction target is realized.
Child care, mental health, energy costs, social assistance,
racialization and income inequalities are major issues for those living
on low- and middle-incomes - problems that are at risk of spiralling
out of control. The issues experienced by youth, particularly the hefty
cost of education and a significantly high unemployment rate of 15.6%
further affect the well-being of current and future generation of
families, children, workers and residents.
Poverty affects everyone and is a consequence of how our society
responds to the difficult situations faced by people. The report shows
that the poverty reduction strategy is not a stand-alone area of work,
but that it is a crucial part of all services provided by government
and needs to be implemented across all departments and by all sectors.
Alizeh Hussain, Ontario Campaign 2000 Coordinator notes, "Far too many
children live in poverty and with the forthcoming cuts in the public
sector many more may end up being worse off. Unless positive changes
are made to current public programs - changes that look to help people
rather than cut costs, the rate of child poverty will rise, making life
worse for those who are most vulnerable.
We continue to experience economic issues, yet the rich continue to stay
rich while those on low- and middle- incomes get poorer. The government
is in a position to make a difference in the lives of all residents of
this province. The poverty reduction agenda has to be given precedence
in public decision-making, otherwise we, as a society, will further
jeopardize the potential of those living in poverty along with the
economic security of our province."
Gordon Floyd, President and CEO of Children's Mental Health Ontario
added, "Since the recession we have seen an increase in the number of
children and youth from lower income families accessing mental health
services. By increasing the risk of mental health conditions in
children, poverty puts further pressure on provincial health care and
other public services. Poverty helps no one and hurts everyone. The
Ontario government must aggressively pursue poverty reduction if we
want to move towards a healthier province."
"It is unacceptable that youth on low-income struggle everyday - even
after completing their degrees - to pay the increasingly unaffordable
cost of education. Education should be treated as a right and not a
privilege. We know education is an investment for everyone - yet
students and their families are left with the largest portion of the
bill. Skyrocketing student debt isn't taken seriously enough, yet it
contributes to the growing gap between the rich and the poor," added
Shaun Shepherd, VP External, University of Toronto Students' Union.
The report card's key findings, available at www.campaign2000.ca/Ontario/reportcards.html, include:
One in 7 children still lives in poverty in Canada.
Employment is not always an assured pathway out of poverty: 1 in 3
low-income children lives in families where at least one parent works
full-time year round.
A lone-parent family on Ontario Works lives on $9,122 less than the Low
Income Measure (the measure of poverty used by the Ontario government).
Child care is a vital service for families, especially low-income
families. Ontario's child care system is facing a financial crisis as a
result of underfunding and impacts from full-day kindergarten.
Currently only 1 in 5 children has access to licensed child care space.
Child care spaces could be even harder to find and afford for low
income families if child care centres are closing and there are fewer
child care spaces.
Housing is the single largest expense for low- and modest-income
families. Eight in 10 food bank clients live in rented housing - many
having to visit a food bank because they had to choose between paying
for food, essential clothing or housing (among other essential
expenses). The waiting list for affordable housing in Ontario stands at
Ontario Campaign 2000 is a non-partisan, cross-Ontario network of over
60 organizations committed to working to end child and family poverty.
SOURCE Campaign 2000
For further information:
Alizeh Hussain, (416 595-9230, ext. 241) or Liyu Guo (416-595-9230, ext. 244).
Hélène Menard at 613-746-0400 ext 201 or cell 613-601-1456 - porte parole francophone