August 24, 2015 8:20 pm
Updated: August 25, 2015 9:20 am

Recommendations made to cut Saskatchewan’s poverty rate in half

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Watch above: Final recommendations from an advisory group on how to reduce poverty in Saskatchewan were presented to the provincial government Monday. As Meaghan Craig reports, the Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction would like the poverty rate cut in half by 2020.

SASKATOON – Why someone experiences poverty in Saskatchewan usually doesn’t come down to a single answer nor is there a simple solution. According to an 11-member advisory group, things won’t improve either on this front if nothing is done to address it.

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On Monday, the Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction (AGPR) shared its recommendations with the government on ways to approach poverty reduction in the province.

“There are six focus areas and a number of high level recommendations and then some practical starting points,” said Alison Robertson, co-chair of AGPR.

READ MORE: 10% of Saskatoon’s homeless population are children

The six key priority areas include: income security, housing and homelessness, early childhood development, education and training, employment and health, and food security. According to the group, implementing the guiding principles will reduce and eventually eliminate poverty in our communities.

A suggestion under income security is to increase food and shelter allowances beginning with the north, isolated areas and areas with a higher cost of living. Under the category of housing and homeless, the advisory group recommends scaling the Saskatoon Housing First model province-wide.

“We have recommended to the province that they adopt a plan with a target to decrease poverty in Saskatchewan by 50 per cent by the year 2020,” added Robertson.

According to Robertson, the percentage of people living in poverty in the province is about 10 per cent or 100,000 people. Saskatchewan is doing better than the national average of 12 per cent but the advisory team would like to see our numbers decline to five per cent in the next five years.

“I do want a goal. Whether it will be that goal, I won’t promise that but I think we do need to set goals,” said Saskatchewan Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer.

“Even if you don’t achieve them … you have greater efforts I think if you have them and work towards them.”

According to health officials, people living in poverty have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and mental illness so having a poverty reduction strategy is a game changer in many aspects.

“If we’re able to reduce poverty significantly in Saskatchewan, we’re going to improve health outcomes significantly as well,” said Dr. Ryan Meili, a physician at Saskatoon’s WestSide Community Clinic and an AGPR advisory member.

The province will now begin to analyze these suggestions and start developing a strategy.

“Poverty is extremely complex, there’s not just one root cause,” said Harpauer. “So I don’t have a deadline for when we’re going to have that final document of the actions in our poverty reduction strategy itself.”

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