Groups to take out ad to appeal for welfare fund

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 April, 2005, 12:00am

More than 2,000 social workers and welfare organisations are expected to publish a joint statement in the press this week in a last-ditch appeal to the government to renew a transition fund for their sector.

Organisers of the campaign warn that many social services groups will be unable to pay their staff when the five-year 'tide-over' grant scheme ends next March.

The grant was introduced four years ago when the administration began allocating resources to non-governmental organisations in a lump sum based on the midpoint salaries of their staff. The transition grant, which amounted to $387 million in the last financial year, helps NGOs meet their budgets.

The government is expected to make a decision on the renewal of the scheme next month.

Peter Cheung Kwok-che, chairman of Hong Kong Social Workers' General Union, one of the organisers of the campaign, said Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok and Director of Social Welfare Paul Tang Kwok-wai had refused to meet welfare representatives about the issue.

'The officials told us in a letter that they did not want to talk about the grant until a decision has been made. We think this is not quite right,' Mr Cheung said.

Mr Cheung said government officials had often unfairly accused some welfare organisations of asking for money, despite their considerable savings.

'The savings essentially show the uncertainty the organisations feel about their future,' he said.

A third of Hong Kong's 40,000 social workers receive salaries above the mid-point level. A large number of layoffs and salary cuts of between 10 and 40 per cent would be inevitable if the grant was not renewed, he said.

Chua Hoi-wai, president of the Hong Kong Social Workers' Association, said the campaign, launched last week, was expected to gather the support of more than 2,000 individuals and welfare groups. They will pay $50 and $500 respectively to have their name published in the newspaper statement.

The accumulated 10 per cent cut of government funding for the sector and the drastic increase in demand for social services in recent years had put tremendous pressure on the welfare groups, according to a draft of the statement for print.