06/18/2012 06:57 EDT | Updated 08/18/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. child poverty rate improves

For the first time in eight years, B.C. does not have the worst child poverty rate in the country.

According to Statistics Canada, the child poverty rate in B.C. dropped to 10.5 per cent in 2010, down from 11.8 per cent in 2009.

The 2010 B.C. rate was the second worst in Canada after Manitoba, which has a child poverty rate of 11.1 per cent. Previously, the child poverty rate in B.C. was the worst of any province in Canada for eight consecutive years.

In 2010, the number of poor children was down to 87,000 from 98,000 in 2009.

"The latest statistics show — once again — the need for a comprehensive anti-poverty program in British Columbia, supported by every political party," said Adrienne Montani, provincial coordinator of First Call: BC.

"Poverty is costing children their health and limiting their ability to reach their full potential."

Meanwhile, the poverty rate for people of all ages in B.C. fell slightly to 11.5 percent in 2010 from 12 percent in 2009. The province has had the worst poverty rate in Canada for 12 consecutive years.

"Children and families struggling with poverty need immediate relief," said Montani.

"It’s hard for parents to work if child care costs a small fortune and welfare rates are too low to support the nutritional needs of growing children."

Minister of Children and Family Development Mary McNeil said B.C.'s child poverty rate has dropped by 45 per cent since 2003, a higher rate of decline than the national average.

"We are encouraged to see that the child poverty rate in B.C. continues to go down," she said in a written statement.

"Putting a label on this is not what will bring about real change. Helping families through crises while, at the same time, creating opportunities for jobs and developing strategies together to give families the keys to capability at the community level is what will give families the springboards they need."

The latest figures from Statistics Canada use the bureau’s low income cut-offs after government transfers and federal and provincial income taxes, which vary by family size and population.

The low income cut-off for a family of four in a city of 500,000 or more in 2010 was $35,469. A single parent with one child was considered low income at $22,831 per year in a large city.