Pilot aid schemes will be retained

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2012, 12:00am

Two Community Care Fund schemes - one for medical aid and the other providing free lunches for poor students - are being taken over permanently by the government.

The charitable trust's steering committee yesterday 'regularised' both programmes, which have proven effective since they were introduced as pilot schemes last year.

This means the programmes will eventually be included in the government's recurrent expenditure instead of being supported by the fund, the steering committee's chairman, Chief Secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung, said.

Bringing the programmes under the government's wing would allow better use of resources, Lam said after yesterday's committee meeting. 'We'll have more space to support disadvantaged groups.'

As both programmes had shown results, Lam said they would be continued and managed by the Education Bureau and the Samaritan Fund. They are among 17 programmes that the Community Care Fund runs.

The fund was set up in October 2010 with a goal of attracting HK$5 billion in donations from the business community to cover gaps in the welfare system. The government would supply another HK$5 billion.

The change of government in July would not mean the fund would stop running, Lam said after chairing a meeting of the committee for the last time. 'I believe the Community Care Fund will definitely continue to run because there is the demand in society,' he said.

The fund now had HK$5 billion in public funds and HK$1.8 billion from private donations, which he said was adequate for present projects.

The free lunch programme, for primary school pupils eligible for student financial assistance schemes, will be financed by the fund in the next school year, benefitting more than 50,000 pupils at a cost of HK$34 million. The Education Bureau will apply for a budget for the programme thereafter.

The second phase of the medical assistance programme, which subsidises self-financed specialist medications for patients with financial difficulties, will be taken over by the Samaritan Fund in the second half of this year. The patient contribution ratio will be lowered from a maximum of 30 per cent to a uniform rate of 20 per cent to help more patients.

The number of self-financed cancer drugs covered in the first phase of the scheme will increase from six to nine. The programme had a HK$192 million budget in 2011-12.

Meanwhile, the Community Care Fund committee yesterday approved HK$91 million to provide one-off allowances for low-income people who are inadequately housed, a scheme announced earlier this year. About 30,000 people from 13,000 households living in cubicles, cocklofts, bed spaces in private buildings and temporary housing, and the homeless, will benefit.

It will pay HK$3,000 to one-person households, HK$6,000 to two-person households, and HK$8,000 to households of three or more. Applications will start in October.

The committee also approved a scheme to subsidise owners' committees of residential or composite buildings that are more than 30 years old. The fund reserved HK$68 million for the programme, which is expected to benefit more than 3,000 owners' committees.

50,000

pupils are expected to benefit from the school lunch scheme in the next academic year

- It is expected to cost HK$34 million

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