Community Services minister says no one should have to consider trading sex for basic needs

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Nova Scotia's Community Services minister says people living in poverty do not need to trade sex for access to basic necessities.

Kelly Regan responded Thursday to comments earlier in the week from an anti-poverty advocate who detailed the lengths some Nova Scotians go to just to make ends meet.

"We would just hope that if ever anyone is facing that kind of choice, that they reach out to their caseworker who can connect them with appropriate supports," Regan said.

JoAnna LaTulippe-Rochon, executive director of the Cape Breton Family Resource Centre, told the standing committee on community services Tuesday that some people trade sexual favours to be able to get rides to the grocery store or take their children to doctor's appointments.

At least one in four children is living in poverty in Nova Scotia. The situation is worse on Cape Breton Island.

Following a cabinet meeting Thursday, Regan told reporters it's not surprising "that people look for ways to get the things they need," but she said those people need to know that help is available.

More work to do

Part of the problem could be that people simply aren't aware of what supports are available, said Regan. She said that could be a function of having a negative experience in the past when trying to get help from the department.

"We've been working really hard to change the culture at [the Community Services Department] and to connect people with the support they need for whatever their needs are," said Regan.

"If in the past they haven't been treated well — we know this is the case for many people from marginalized communities, that they may not feel comfortable reaching out — we want to let them know that we're from the government and we're here to help. We really are."

Regan said there are a variety of services and supports the department can help connect people with, including help with travel and skills training. Poverty is a persistent problem that won't be solved quickly, but the minister said her government continues to work on it.

"Every year we make investments because we want to help more people live better lives and we are working to do that," said Regan.

"Do we have more work to do? Absolutely."

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