Hardships of welfare poverty harm children and families

Letter: Barbara Fitzgerald, West Vancouver; Vancouver Sun

Re: B.C. welfare payments are adequate, Opinion Jan. 26

The economists at the Fraser Institute tell us that welfare payments are adequate. I am not an economist; I am a pediatrician in the inner city. I would like them to see the children I see on a daily basis and tell me that is true.

I would like them to look the six-year-old boy in the eye, who I saw last week. He is living with a stranger in foster care (at a cost of $1,200 per month) because his mother can’t find housing on the $575 per month welfare pays.

She has worked her whole life and is off work this year coping with significant illness. I watched this distraught child cling to her, asking why he couldn’t come with her. Tell that child that the welfare payments are “adequate.”

I agree that, ideally, welfare is a temporary solution. Being in hospital is also a temporary solution for most people. If you had surgery and I asked you to sleep on a filthy floor post-operatively, with cockroaches running over you, and fed you dollar-store noodles, how quickly would you recover? Welfare payments don’t set people up to get back in the workforce.

Children on welfare come to school hungry, ill-clothed and tired from sleeping with bed bugs. They are not ready to learn and they are not ready to succeed.

If we want to make a difference, if we want the next generation of children to succeed, we will boost welfare rates to allow them to grow up with their families, finish school and seek employment. Let’s start thinking about the children.