Fees confusion leaves creche places unfilled
By SHIRLEY KWOK
DESPITE a high success rate among applicants for assistance, hundreds of creches are going empty after a new government subsidy policy caused a hefty increase in fees.
Social workers fear needy children, especially those aged under six, could be left at home alone and face danger of injury or even death from accidents and neglect.
The fees for child day creches have tripled in the past two years since the Government changed its subsidy from centres in the main to needy parents directly.
The Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children has to charge $3,350 a month for babies up to the age of two in its day creche. Two years ago the fee was $1,030.
Parents with financial difficulty can apply to the Social Welfare Department for assistance.
Chan Yuk-ping, supervisor of the society's Chan Kwan Biu Memorial Foundation Day Creche, which was formally opened yesterday, said there was a high success rate for parents getting government assistance.
'But the problem is many parents do not know about such a subsidy, or dare not apply for it,' she said.
'Many of them are shocked to learn about the expensive fees and give up placing their kids in centres without really thinking.
'Other people believe the application for assistance is troublesome,' Ms Chan said.
Rose Ho Siu-mui, child care co-ordinator of the Salvation Army, which runs 16 nurseries and three day creches, said some of their centres had not reached capacity.
Social workers estimate there are 10,000 empty places at child care centres. Welfare department figures show 1,440 day care places and 23,768 nursery places are empty at centres under the department.