Children living in poverty also emotionally deprived: survey

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2007, 12:00am

Child welfare advocates have called for an all-encompassing approach to help poverty-stricken children after a study found nearly 80 per cent of them lack support from their families or the emotional or social means to develop.

The survey, conducted in late September, interviewed 421 children whose families live in poverty and measured their deprivation through nine indicators. It found that 78 per cent suffered deprivation in more than one area, while 36 per cent registered more than four indicators.

Wong Kwai-yau, supervisor of the Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong who participated in the survey, said 10 per cent of the children had been deprived on all nine indicators.

Social Welfare Department figures for August showed 101,983 children under 15 were receiving welfare.

Mr Wong said this meant as many as 10,000 children could be deprived in all nine areas.

'Parental care, educational support and living environment all matter in a child's development and such deprivations can be more significant than poverty to a child's development,' Mr Wong said.

The study found 42.5 per cent of children expressed a lack of 'approaches to learning', as children living in poverty were more passive and would not speak up when they encountered a problem. And 32.3 per cent said they lacked emotional warmth and social networking, indicating that their parents had failed to spend sufficient time with them.

It also found 31.6 per cent of the children were dissatisfied with their education and 37.4 per cent had failed in their English language subject. Only 24 per cent of them had learned music or drama while 25.2 per cent had joined in ball games.

Mr Wong said most parents in poverty-stricken families could not help their children in their English language subject and could not spare money for extra-curricular activities.

'The children can be trapped in inter-generational poverty as they would not be able to climb up the social ladder with these deprivations. We need an all-round approach to look into their and their families' needs individually and separately,' he said.

Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation, said the deprivation of children living in poverty was serious and the problem could not be singled out from family poverty.

'Some parents have to work all day to earn a living and it is impossible for them to spare time for their kids. Then there are single-parent families, which contribute to a large proportion of family poverty,' Mr Ho said.

The technology gap was also huge for some children. 'Some of those children living in cubicle homes can never access the internet, even if they have a computer as there are no telephone lines available,' he said.

A spokeswoman from the Labour and Welfare Bureau said the establishment of the HK$300 million Child Development Fund aimed to encourage children from disadvantaged backgrounds to plan for the future and cultivate positive attitudes.

Furthermore, the implementation of small-class teaching and the provision of free senior secondary education for all students in public schools from the next school year would help them break away from inter-generational poverty.