Single parents get new supports

Single parents in B.C. now have extra incentive to start training for a job that pays a living family wage.

Single parents in B.C. now have extra incentive to start training for a job that pays a living family wage.

On March 11, the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, along with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, shared a plan to invest $24.5 million in an enhanced income and disability assistance program.

The initiative gives single parents already on social assistance a year of tuition, medical and child care supports to train for a position that pays a living wage.

According to the province, the new Single Parent Employment Initiative will benefit 16,000 single parents in B.C. and will, “help them break down the barriers that often face while trying to find a full-time job.”

Gail Lavery, the executive director of the Trail FAIR Society, says that while she isn’t sure of the exact number of parents in the lower Basin the new program will impact, she can definitely see why something like this was needed.

“Just anecdotally, I am sure it will help (families in the area),” she said. “Something like this is huge and very important. I have no doubt whatsoever that this will only be a positive thing for the people we serve in our programs.”

Ann Godderis with the WINS Transition House in Trail, says the plan is a step in the right direction, but more importantly, opens up the conversation on child poverty and the struggle of single parents.

“It is definitely opening doors for the future,” she said. “It’s an acknowledgment of the black hole trap that a single parent was in previously. It is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, but there is still a lot more that can be done to support single parents and get them earning a living wage.”

One issue the program seems to resolve, according to Godderis, is providing single parents with more than one option for them and their children.

“I think that it makes going on income assistance a little less terrifying for single parents,” she said. “(Social assistance) really is a recipe for poverty. The income they get is so miniscule that it’s very frightening and a single mom will sometimes go back to their situation just because it is their only option. At least they know their kids are going to get fed and housed properly. It does open a little bit of a door for those women.”

Now, social assistance will continue and cover expenses that would previously be put on the parent during job training.

Godderis says there are still some questions that she wants answered about the program. The government says the plan will pay for training, but only in specific sectors and for approved jobs. As of press time, no details have been released about what positions fall in those categories.

“There is more I want to learn about it,” she said. “I am a little concerned when they say that this will be for specific jobs. In the Trail area, I’m wondering what jobs they are talking about and what training is available. I just want to know which kinds of training they are talking about.”

Paying for childcare while the parent is in training is also a part of the plan, but Godderis sees it as a bit of a bandaid for a larger issue.

“The childcare assistance is huge, but again, thank heaven we have Child Care and Resource Referral system to find childcare,” she said. “Spaces, especially for very young children, are pretty well unavailable. I would love to see this go the next step and see an announcement for funding for extra child care spots.”

The Single Parent Employment Initiative goes into effect in September.

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