Thursday, February 23, 2012
People looking for investments in BC’s children and youth were sorely disappointed with BC’s new budget released on February 21st. First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition was looking for the budget to recognize the importance of supporting families raising children, particularly those who are struggling to get by on a low income. The Coalition was also hoping that the budget would address some of the urgent issues affecting the lives of the most vulnerable child and youth populations, and to tackle BC’s growing inequality. However, these are clearly not the priorities reflected in the revenue generation and spending choices of this year’s provincial budget.
Some highlights of First Call’s concerns about the budget include:
· The continued neglect of the need for additional funding for the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) to reduce the caseloads of child protection social workers and adequately support children in the foster care system. A flat-lined budget and rising costs means this ministry will have to make cuts.
· No progress on solving the child care crisis affecting families with young children. No relief from high fees, insufficient spaces and low wages for child care workers. No plans for increasing access to quality early childhood care and learning for preschoolers. Alarmingly, in the Ministry of Education service plan, government’s target for the percentage of children who enter kindergarten developmentally ready to learn has been lowered from the previous 85% by 2015 to 75% by that date. Current data shows we are only at 70%, meaning almost 1 in 3 BC children enter school developmentally vulnerable.
· The increase in regressive taxes like MSP premiums will hit modest income working families hardest, making it even less likely they will have the cash to pay for fitness or arts programs for their children in order to earn the new $25 tax credit. Research on the use of this type of tax credit at the federal level reveals that it is primarily used by more affluent families, and offers little benefit for lower income families.
· Children in families facing hunger and housing insecurity due to already inadequate income assistance rates will be hungrier and in greater danger of becoming homeless as the cost of food and housing continues to rise while rates are frozen.
· No relief for post-secondary students facing high tuition fees and high interest rates on their student loans when they graduate, despite the recommendations from the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to lower interest rates and restore a needs-based grant program.
· The cumulative funding deficit in public education continues to grow with this budget, depriving students with extra challenges of the supports they need while school boards struggle to decide what to cut even to pay their share of the MSP premium increases.
“The Finance Minister talks of fiscal prudence, but this budget’s failure to invest in the well-being of all children and youth will cost us dearly as inequities grow bigger and more children lack the supports they need to reach their full potential,” said Adrienne Montani, First Call’s Provincial Coordinator. “It’s a false economy to ignore the costs of undermining children’s healthy development through maintaining a high poverty rate and withholding needed support.”
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For interviews please contact:
Adrienne Montani, Provincial Coordinator, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition
Posted by David Berner at 9:48 AM