Children 'to bear brunt of welfare cuts'
CERI WILLIAMS and CYNTHIA WAN
More home-alone children would die or be injured because of proposed welfare cuts for single parents, welfare activists warned yesterday.
And more teenagers would join gangs and turn to crime if their parents lost benefits, they said.
Single parents will lose their benefits and have to declare themselves jobless to get financial help under a reported planned shake-up by the Government.
Under the welfare review, single parents with the youngest child aged 12 - instead of the present 15 - would have to find jobs or apply for unemployment benefits as they would not be eligible for aid under the single-parent category.
A monthly supplement of $255 for single-parent families also might be reduced to relieve expenditure on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance.
But a spokesman for the Welfare Rights Concern Association said: 'These policies will lead to more parents being forced to leave their children at home alone, which can lead to deaths.' Cyd Ho Sau-lan, a Frontier legislator, added: 'We are also worried teenagers will turn to more crime and be more open to joining gangs.' Her comments follow the death of an 11-year-old boy in August after he fell from an 18th-floor flat while playing at home alone.
A poll in February by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups and Tsuen Wan Provisional District Board showed that 56 per cent of 2,930 youngsters aged 15 to 18 said triads posed their 'biggest challenge'.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Single Parents Association hit out at the Government for failing to provide vocational training and child care to help parents return to work.
A Social Welfare Department spokesman said talks were being held with welfare agencies to provide more child care.
The Government is trying to control the number of single-parent families receiving assistance, with a 38 per cent increase in such cases during the past year.
There were 21,400 single-parent cases on the books last month, compared with 15,500 in October last year.