330 welfare claims from recent immigrants after court's CSSA ruling

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 December, 2013, 5:04am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 December, 2013, 7:45am

Some 330 recent immigrants have applied for welfare since the top court ruled on Tuesday that it is unconstitutional to withhold it from them, the Labour and Welfare Bureau revealed at a Legislative Council meeting yesterday.

The number of daily applications from recent immigrants since the ruling has been slightly above the daily average from all Hong Kong residents from April to October since the Court of Final Appeal ruled on Tuesday that it was unlawful to deny Comprehensive Social Security Assistance to people who had lived in the city for less than seven years.

The Social Welfare Department has been accepting applications, but is waiting for guidelines - expected in the next few days - before processing them.

In response to concerns from lawmakers about the figures, Annie Tam Kam-lan, permanent secretary for labour and welfare, promised to "keep a careful watch". Before the seven-year residency rule on receiving social security was introduced in 2004, she said, new immigrants accounted for only 12 to 15 per cent of recipients.

"By October this year, we had a total of 263,000 CSSA cases, with 390,000 people benefiting from the scheme," Tam said. "The number of cases is [the] lowest [it has been] since September 2002, and has been falling over the last 30 months. We believe [it shows] the economy and employment conditions are quite good."

The Social Welfare Department received a total of 22,793 applications for CSSA between April and October this year, but could not provide statistics on how many local residents applied in the past three days.

At a Legco finance committee meeting yesterday, lawmakers approved a government proposal to increase CSSA, old-age allowance and disability allowance by 4.1 per cent.

The standard monthly assistance currently offered to an able-bodied adult, excluding rent money, is HK$2,070, and HK$2,490 for an able-bodied child. Those sums will rise to HK$2,155 and HK$2,590 respectively, starting from February next year.