This week’s infographic, produced by the Canada Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), takes a look at Ontario’s Child Poverty Reduction Strategy. Founded in 1980, the CCPA is one of Canada’s largest independent policy research organizations. Reports published by the CCPA fall into two main categories, those with a Canada-wide focus and those with a provincial focus. The CCPA’s provincial offices focus on province-specific issues such as Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Eight years ago, the Ontario government made a commitment to reduce child poverty rates by a quarter between 2008 and 2013. The infographic states that by 2010 there was an 8.7% drop in child poverty after investments were made into the poverty reduction strategy. Unfortunately, after 2010, investments into the poverty reduction strategies stalled and child poverty rates began to increase. This is partially due to a lack of funding from the federal government. The province ended “its five-year strategy with the same level of child poverty as when it began in 2008.” In 2014, the government recommitted to reducing child poverty rates by 25% by 2018.
In order to be effective, child poverty reduction strategies require extensive planning and funding. Examples of investments that can make a difference include raising the minimum wage and increasing financial support for low to moderate income families through programs like the Ontario Child Benefit.
There are many barriers and care gaps that children living in poverty face compared to children from a financially secure household. Children living in poverty are more likely to face barriers to education, have difficulty obtaining safe and healthy nutritious foods, and live in poor housing conditions. Barriers in accessing nutritious food can lead to poor mental health outcomes. Poor mental health outcomes in turn can hinder a child’s ability to be successful over the course of their academic career. Few of the factors associated with child poverty can be targeted in isolation without considering other gaps in our social safety net.
Access to educational supports are a critical component of any strategy that looks to address child poverty. Education is one of the primary means through which upward social mobility can be achieved, breaking the cycle of poverty that may exist in many families. By providing, and investing in children today, we lay the groundwork for their success in adulthood.
The importance of spreading awareness about the importance of continued funding in long-term strategies extends beyond child poverty, to issues including housing, healthcare and food insecurity. In the event that present funding strategies are inadequate and fail to meet the needs of society’s most vulnerable, it is important to remember that government budgets are not set in stone. Public support and advocacy for child poverty reduction programs can provide the necessary political will to change the status quo.