Job scheme to get single parents off welfare extended

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2007, 12:00am

A scheme aimed at spurring solo parents living on welfare to get back into work will be extended until 2010 after the government said it had received a positive reaction from participants and independent observers.

The New Dawn project was launched last April and was due to end in September.

But the chairman of the Social Welfare Advisory Committee, Wilfred Wong Ying-wai, said it would be continued for 21/2 years.

'The feedback from different parties - the participants, their children, employers as well as our frontline staff - is all very positive,' he said.

'We think this project has become the first step to help the parents on their way to self-reliance.

'Aside from assisting them to be independent financially, it is even more important to boost their own confidence and encourage them to act as a model for their children,' he said.

A solo parent on welfare whose youngest child is aged between 12 and 15 will be required to take part in the scheme, which offers job-seeking help to participants and penalises those who do not take part by reducing their benefits.

Those with disabled, senile or sick family members to care for are exempted.

But eligible people who resist joining the scheme risk having HK$200 deducted from their monthly payout.

The Social Welfare Department said that by the end of March, 2,215 out of 7,886 participants had found jobs.

The decision to extend the running time of the scheme follows an evaluation carried out by the University of Hong Kong from November to March.

It found that going back to work had rarely harmed relationships within families and often helped improve the self-esteem of parents and children.

Wong Yu-cheng of the department of social administration at the university, suggested the government should consider increasing the penalties on those refusing to take part in the scheme.

'We talked to some of these people, and half of them said they would join in if the sanctions were tougher,' Dr Wong said.

Jessie Yu, chief executive of the Hong Kong Single Parents Association, disagreed.

'Stronger sanctions are not an effective resolution, as people would not change their minds even if they changed their behaviour,' the experienced social worker said.

'Many social welfare policies are like a revolving door. People will come back again soon after they receive help.'

Ms Yu said the policy would not work well unless those taking part could establish self-confidence and knew how to plan their future.

According to the department, most successful job hunters work as cleaners, shop assistants, domestic helpers and service workers.

They were receiving an average wage of about HK$4,400 a month for full-time employment and HK$1,600 for part-time work.

Hope for families

The New Dawn project aims to get unemployed people back into jobs

By the end of March, 2,215 people had found work under the scheme, with the number able to go off CSSA being: 158