In releasing its 2015 census data, Statistics Canada has shed light on the troubling issue of child poverty in the city of London.
While the national percentage of kids living in low-income homes is 17 per cent, London’s percentage is 22.2 per cent — making it the city with the third-highest rate of child poverty of the big cities surveyed across Canada.
Windsor tops the list with 24 per cent, while St. John’s is at 23.1 per cent.
“We’re definitely not doing enough to address the issue of poverty here in the city,” said Jean Peaire, a London resident living below the poverty as a single parent with his nine-year-old daughter.
“Combined income, with child tax benefit as well as welfare currently, is approximately $1,200 a month. That’s really not enough to support a child going to school and buying school clothes, and backpacks, and school supplies.”
Spearheaded by Mayor Matt Brown, London’s poverty panel made 112 recommendations to address the issue, while tasking the United Way London Middlesex with turning them into a reality over the span of a generation.
These are good steps, said Peaire. But he wants more.
“They need to include more people in poverty, that actually live in poverty, especially on the London Middlesex Housing Corporation — they need to have more people involved that live on the sites making the judgment calls.”
As for how the city engages young people in solution-finding processes, Brown said that’s work The Children and Youth Network does every day.
“It’s many, many community partners, working directly with parents, working with families that are experiencing poverty. A significant amount of consultation happened with my poverty panel as they were developing the strategies to be implemented, to make sure we included people’s lived experiences.”
Free bus rides for kids 12 and under was one of the recommendations from Mayor Matt Brown’s anti-poverty panel, which has already been implemented at a cost of about $150,000 a year.
Brown said creating more child-care spaces and reducing the wait to receive child-care subsidies are some of the other recommendations already turned into a reality.
They make up some of the 20 recommendations United Way London Middlesex CEO Kelly Ziegner told AM980 the organization has made progress on so far.
“We’re in the process right now getting our oversight body up and running, so that’s a group of community volunteers, many with lived experience, who are going to keep us and the city and our partners accountable to the process,” she explained.
What everyone agrees is that the rate of poverty amongst London residents is not surprising.
But Ziegner says what is startling, is how London stacks up in comparison to other big cities throughout Canada.
“There’s often a perception that London is sort of a well-to-do community, and when you see us ranked — it tells a different story.”
According to the Statistics Canada data, the annual median household income across London, Strathroy, and St Thomas is the second lowest across the province, pegged at a little below $65,000.