11/24/2014 04:34 EST | Updated 01/24/2015 05:59 EST

Child poverty on rise in B.C., says First Call coalition report card

A coalition of advocacy groups says the level of child poverty in B.C. is growing, with roughly 1 in 5 children in the province living in poverty.

In its annual B.C. Child Poverty Report Card, released Monday morning, the First Call coalition says 169,240 children were living below the poverty line in B.C. in 2012.

Last year, the number cited in their report stood at 153,000 children. This year's report used the latest numbers available from Statistics Canada, which are from 2012.

According to the report, B.C. has the fifth highest child poverty rate among the Canadian provinces.

Single mothers disproportionately affected

Nearly half of B.C. children who live in a single parent family were living below the poverty line in 2012, according to the report.

That statistic comes as no surprise to Viveca Ellis, who became a single mother when her son, who is now five years old, was a baby. 

"It was this complex combination of the extremely high cost of childcare, precarious work, our broken welfare system, and this social isolation that can be very dehabilitating as a single mother," she told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

After reading last year's First Call report, she met with four other single mothers, and formed the Single Mothers' Alliance B.C., to further awareness around the needs of single mothers.

According to Statistics Canada, 81 per cent of single parents in this country are mothers. Ellis said she knows first hand what it's like to struggle just to afford food on the table.

"Activities are out of reach, getting in to Science World is out of reach, any kind of fun activity that you know your child needs is out of reach," she said. "Everything else falls by the wayside."

Ellis wants to see the government take steps beyond the welfare system to improve conditions for single mothers, and help them move out of poverty without depending on welfare cheques or the food bank.

"The current poverty rate is a choice our government is making," she said.

What is poverty?

The "poverty line" is different, depending on the family situation. Here's how the First Call report defines poverty, based on annual income, after tax:

- One parent with one child: less than $23,755

- Two parents with one child: less than $28,846

- One parent with two children: less than $28,846

- Two parents with two children: less than $33,936

- One parent with three children: less than $33,936

- Two parents with three children: less than $40,723