An anti-poverty group is calling on the federal government to merge three child and family benefits to increase support for kids living in poverty, while also scaling back support for upper-income families.

National Campaign 2000 says nearly 21 per cent of children in Manitoba live in poverty.

“Manitoba has the second highest poverty rate,” said Sid Frankel from the faculty of social work at the University of Manitoba.

National Campaign 2000 is calling on Ottawa to combine three federal family and child benefits, including the $100 universal child care benefit.

The group says money from those credits could be used to increase payments for low-income families, using a sliding scale based on wages.

That would mean higher income families would qualify  for fewer benefits or none at all.

 “They don’t need it so why do they have to have it?” asks Jen Fincaryk, a mother.

Others, however, questioned the proposed change.

“It’s all for one, one for all. Everybody should get the exact same no matter who has what,” said Melissa Wooley, who has a 16-month-old child.

National Campaign 2000 is also calling for an additional $174 million in funding which it says would lift 174,000 kids across the country out of poverty.

“Children benefit from the family income increasing even when the expenditures aren’t directly on them,” said Frankel.

But Wooley questions whether increased support would go directly towards children.

“It’s not meant for the casino. It’s not meant for Friday night movie night. It’s meant for your kid,” she said.

Advocates said most parents, whether rich or poor, are responsible and say in the majority of cases, the money would be spent wisely.

National Campaign 2000 says combining the family benefits and credits would also cut down on red tape and administrative costs.