Groups urge autonomy for welfare bodies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2008, 12:00am

Absorption by Family Council of three commissions opposed

Concern groups have urged the government not to integrate three current commissions on welfare into the new Family Council, so that each commission can better defend its separate rights.

At the Legislative Council's panel meeting on welfare services yesterday, group representatives urged the government not to disband the Elderly Commission, the Women's Commission and the Commission on Youth after the establishment of the Family Council last December.

The government earlier said the Family Council would seek to streamline the work of the three commissions by March next year and explore ways to improve collaboration with the commissions.

'Different social-affairs commissions focus on different issues. They can provide a platform to encourage more social and civic participation,' Elsa Chiu, chief officer of family and community service development for the Council of Social Service, said at the meeting.

Caritas (Family Service) centre supervisor Kwok Chi-ying said the commissions 'have their own individual concerns and [aim to] care for the specific groups of people according to their concerns'.

She said the Family Council should discuss, study and rule on some issues of common interest of the three commissions, including tax policy, housing arrangements, city planning, immigration policy, paternity leave and flexible working hours.

Chung Yuen-yi, co-ordinator of the Women's Coalition on Equal Opportunities' anti-domestic-violence programmes, also opposed integrating the Women's Commission into the Family Council.

'It would further dwarf the importance of women's affairs if they were under the umbrella of the Family Council. It would be serious discrimination against women,' she said.

Family Council secretary Christine Chow Kam-yuk said the council would study carefully its relationship with the three commissions by March next year.

Also, Labour and Welfare Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung told Legco yesterday that the Child Development Fund project would start in July if its HK$300 million budget was approved by the legislature.

The progress of the project would be reviewed on a half-year basis, Mr Cheung said.

Under the scheme, at least 700 needy children aged 10 to 16 will each attempt to save HK$200 a month over two years, with the business sector or individual donors providing matching contributions.

But children with special financial difficulties will be allowed to set a lower savings target.

Participants who successfully complete the savings programme will be given an additional HK$3,000.

The savings can then be used according to the children's individual development plan under the supervision of a non-governmental organisation.