November 24, 2011
EDMONTON - A new report shows the number of Alberta children living
in poverty has increased 40 per cent in recent years, and Alek Kuots
six children are among them.
The 35-year-old Sudanese refugee was
laid off last year and her husband, who works in a bakery, brings home
$2,000 a month. Rent is $1,400.
It is hard, Kuot said in broken
English while her four-year-old son Deng played at his ABC Head Start
program Wednesday morning. The family escaped from war-torn Sudan, where
Kuot was shot through the knees when she was 12 years old.
shop at discount places, I try to find work ... but I cant (read or
write) English so it is hard for me to get a job. When I am working, I
cannot (find) daycare, Kuot said. The children cant take part in
school activities because the family cant afford it, Kuot said, even
with the help of a $1,000 child tax credit.
The report, In This Together: Ending Poverty in Alberta, was released Wednesday by a coalition of anti-poverty advocacy groups.
cites Statistics Canada figures that show the number of children living
below the poverty line in Alberta jumped from 53,000 in 2008 to 73,000
in 2009, the last year for which figures are available.
single moms are still twice as likely to live in poverty as women living
with partners, the poverty rate has doubled among children in
two-parent families, the report says.
Further, nearly half of all children who live in poverty come from homes where one or more people work full-time, year round.
rising tide may lift all boats, but Albertas economy is lifting the
yachts much faster than it is lifting the canoes, said John Kolkman of
Edmontons Social Planning Council, which released the report with the
Alberta College of Social Workers and Public Interest Alberta. The
recession hit vulnerable Albertans hard.
Lori Sigurdson, a social
worker and provincial NDP candidate in Edmonton-Riverview, said the
province needs a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy. We all
benefit when the most vulnerable in our society are cared for, she
Head Start executive director Kathy Lenihan said the
preschool program for low-income families turns away 900 needy families
each year. She said children from impoverished families suffer high
levels of dental problems, learning delays and interpersonal troubles,
partly because parents are stressed and working and dont have adequate
The message I have for this government is that these
kids are here. We work with 370 every year, we cant begin to serve all
of those who knock on our door, Lenihan said. Child poverty is real in
this province and until we start to address it is not going go away.
Alison Redford responded to the report saying rising child poverty
rates are not acceptable and pointed to her governments plan to
introduce a social policy framework that ensures the province is taking
care of its most vulnerable.
Redford rejected the idea that a
growing economy alone has the power to address poverty, calling the
notion ill-informed. Thats not true, she said. A province of nearly
four million people can develop structural social issues if those
potential problems are not addressed early on, she said. We have to
deal with that.
Kuot, the impoverished mother of six, was asked
whether she has a message for the premier. She said no, she doesnt know
how to fix poverty. She did have a question.
I would like her to
show me how I should divide up the money, Kuot said. If they will
come divide up the money (then) they can see how hard it is for me.