5,900 seek help in financial crisis

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 March, 2009, 12:00am

Almost 6,000 people affected by the financial meltdown have sought help through a hotline.

The Financial Crisis Emotional Support Hotline, which was launched last October, has so far received 5,900 requests for help, with 56 per cent of people saying they had financial difficulties, labour minister Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said yesterday.

'About 20 per cent said they had economic problems around the end of last year, but now the figure has jumped to more than 50 per cent,' Mr Cheung said. 'The hotline receives about 800 calls for help every month, on average, but it has received about 800 requests for help this month so far. So we expect the number to be even higher this month.'

The Social Welfare Department would continue to provide support and counselling services to help people affected by the economic crisis, Mr Cheung said.

'We will also make arrangements for those who need to apply for other welfare services,' he added.

Speaking on a television programme yesterday, Social Welfare Department director Stephen Fisher said more resources might be needed for food bank services as there had been more demand than expected.

Mr Fisher said the food banks might seek more government help if demand continued to be strong.

Last year, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced the government would spend HK$100 million on food bank services as a relief measure in response to rising inflation. The fund planned to help 50,000 people over three years.

Although the 50,000 quota had not been used up, demand was greater than expected, Mr Fisher said.