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Wednesday, September 28, 2016, 00:46

Commission to reevaluate needs of low-income groups

By Dara Wang

HONG KONG - A meeting will be held by the Commission on Poverty (CoP) next month to reevaluate the needs of the city’s low-income groups, according to the chief secretary for administration’s (CSA) office.

The move comes after concern groups for low-income families on Tuesday asked the government to withdraw the decision to cancel next year’s one-off living subsidy for low-income households under the Community Care Fund (CCF). It said “no alternative relief can cover all people currently in need”.

In a response to questions from China Daily, the CSA’s office, which heads the city’s efforts to reduce poverty, said the CoP will hold a meeting on Oct 15 to reevaluate the needs of low-income families.

By that time, some alternative relief may be offered if necessary. This may be a substitute for the canceled subsidy, the office revealed.

The CSA’s office said the decision was made by the fund and the CoP acting the appropriate authority.

Chairman of CCF Task Force Law Chi-kwong agreed with this statement. He stressed that there was no one who pressed him to make such a decision.

On Sunday he attributed the cancelation to the “government’s budget cuts in welfare to low-income groups”.

The one-off living subsidy for low-income households aims to relieve financial pressures on those who do not own property, are not living in public housing and do not receive Comprehensive Social Security Assistance.

The amount of subsidies in this year’s plan ranges from HK$4,000 for one-person households to HK$14,000 for five-or-more-person households. So far, the CCF has offered subsidies to 64,300 households this year, covering around 157,700 persons and amounting to HK$563 million, according to an official document.

One of the concern groups, Alliance for Social Protection of Low Income Families, said without the canceled subsidy, two other current relief measures – the Low-income Working Family Allowance (LIFA) and Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme (WITS) - cannot cover low-income people living alone.

Besides, both LIFA and WITS require applicants to work no less than 36 hours a month and this may exclude people without stable jobs, said Kam Kan-ming, a member of the alliance.

Some people are really struggling. One woman surnamed Lam, for example, lives with four family members in a subdivided unit in Tuen Mun. Lam said her son now works as a decoration worker and cannot fulfill the requirement for working hours because he does not receive orders to do decoration work every month.

Ng Kwan-lim from HKSKH Lady MacLehose Centre, an organization providing community services, said the CCF should not make the cancellation decision without any prior advice or surveys.

“Since the subsidy program started in 2013, CCF will invite application institutions to attend a meeting to review the relief effectiveness every year before the applications closes,” Ng said.

“However, so far, we have not received any invitations, while the application closed on Aug 31,” he added.

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