06/18/2015 03:56 EDT | Updated 06/18/2016 05:59 EDT

Lives of B.C.'s most vulnerable children not improving, says Children's rep

Life for the most vulnerable children in B.C. has not improved significantly over the past five years, according to a new report.

The joint report by the Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall compared the status of child and youth across six measurable areas.

"With the passage of five years since the last [report], are we able to report improvement? The short answer is 'no'," Turpel-Lafond said at the release of the report Thursday morning in Victoria.

While there are some positive findings, serious gaps in well-being remain for the most vulnerable — aboriginal children and youth and those in government care, she noted.

"These children start out behind their peers and stay behind."

"Since the onset of the recession in 2008, the number of children living in families with incomes below the poverty line increased to one in five, with very little progress in recent years to improve that," Turpel-Lafond said.

"While the report shows some promising trends in declining teen pregnancy rates, rates of smoking during pregnancy and serious criminal activity, there are some findings that are of great concern," said the province's top medical officer Dr. Perry Kendall.

Specifically, the report noted:

- "About one-third of children entering Kindergarten are not as ready as they should be for school.

- "Aboriginal children and youth are 12 times more likely than non-aboriginal children and youth to be in government care.

- "Children in government care are five times more likely than the general population to be designated as having a special education need.

- "Almost 60 per cent of youth in care do not graduate from high school within six years.

- "Half of youth who age out of care when they turn 19 are on income assistance within six months of leaving care."

Kendall and Trupel-Lafond also raised concerns about the decline in data about child well-being since the federal government scrapped the long-form census in 2011.

"As a result, we have lost a critically important source of information, specifically about the more marginalized populations who are under-represented in voluntary surveys," said Kendall in a joint statement issued with the report.