Welfare group pushes for improvement in childcare services for low-income families

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 August, 2009, 12:00am

The government should improve childcare services to help underprivileged families in which the mothers have to stay at home instead of going to work, a group of protesters said yesterday.

Demonstrating outside government headquarters with 100 children and their parents yesterday, representatives of the Society for Community Organisation said at least 120,000 children aged between six and 12 from poor families needed government-subsidised nursery services.

Sze Lai-shan, a community organiser with the grass-roots concern group, said: 'Such services are available for only 5,000 children, and they are available only between Monday and Friday from 8am to 6pm. Parents have to pay for such services privately if they want people to take care of their children other than during these time periods.'

Of the 5,000 children covered by such programmes, only 1,200 receive 100 per cent subsidies from the government, and the rest must pay HK$900 to HK$2,000 a month, Ms Sze said. While the fathers in such families spent most of their time at work, the mothers could often only find part-time jobs at odd hours, earning as little as HK$2,000 a month, the group found.

There was no way such families could afford private nursery services, which cost at least a few thousand dollars a month, Ms Sze said.

'The government should improve childcare services so that parents in underprivileged families can have the chance to make more money and improve their living standards.'

The Labour and Welfare Bureau said last night that the government was concerned about the well-being and needs of women in Hong Kong.

A spokeswoman said different forms of childcare services had been developed to meet the needs of working women, and help low-income families obtain needed services.

She said the government last year launched a three-year pilot programme called the Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project, which encourages neighbours to take care of each other's young children. It operates in six districts: Tung Chung, Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung, Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Kwun Tong.