New Brunswick continues to have among the highest youth poverty rates in the country, according to a report released today by the Human Development Council.
One in five youth are living in poverty and the statistics are even higher for Aborigional youth in the province. According to Executive Director Randy Hatfield, young people in the province are struggling to access basic needs.
“It’s food, clothing, shelter and then safety and security and then moving forward with their life,” he said.
According to a report called The Face of Child Poverty in New Brunswick, the latest statistics show that more than 20 per cent of children and youth aged 0 to 17 live in poverty, which is the fourth highest rate in the country.
According the the State of the Child report released by the province’s child and youth advocate on Monday, young people living in poverty are at a higher risk of developing a mental illness.
Danielle Whalen is a youth counselling therapist at the Atlantic Wellness Centre in Moncton. She says about 30 per cent of the patients she counsels are living below the poverty line, which is contributing to their mental health struggles.
“There are additional life stressors: having proper food, proper sleep and a home. To worry about having a roof over your head, those are additional stressors,” she said.
But Hatfield is feeling hopeful that young people will have a little more breathing room over the next year due to the recent increase in the federal child tax benefit.
WATCH: A report finds the child poverty rate across much of New Brunswick is higher than the national rate
“That in itself is going to put more money in the hands of low-income families that I think will put more people above that poverty line,” he said.
He’s also calling on the province to set a timetable to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
He is hopeful that a national housing strategy to be released tomorrow will provide the province and municipalities with more funds to spend on low-income housing.