Rent rises 'a burden' for welfare recipients

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2009, 12:00am

Lawmakers have urged the government to consider rising rents when adjusting welfare payments.

The government and legislators discussed the annual adjustment of payment rates under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme and the Social Security Allowance Scheme at a welfare panel meeting yesterday.

Deputy Secretary for Labour and Welfare Irene Young Bick-kwan told the Legislative Council that if, as expected, the Social Security Assistance Index of Prices fell for 2008-09, the government would keep standard payment rates under the CSSA scheme and the rates of allowances under the SSA scheme at current levels.

But lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee said the difficulty CSSA recipients had in paying high rents was not one of the factors considered when adjusting welfare payments. 'Rental expenses differ greatly depending on districts,' he said.

'The government should find out more about this when adjusting CSSA payments. Just HK$1,000 or HK$2,000 is not enough to rent a small flat in Kowloon or Hong Kong Island.'

Another legislator, Wong Sing-chi, said that if CSSA recipients moved to the New Territories for lower rents, they would have more difficulty finding jobs or would have higher travel costs if they found work in Kowloon.

Young said it was up to the individual to decide where he or she wanted to rent a flat, and there were many choices. 'The system at the moment can already provide help to those in need,' she said.

The bureau will inform Legco's Finance Committee next month about the proposal to freeze the CSSA standard payment and SSA rates.