Give subsidies to all low-income families, group suggests

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 4:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 4:02am

A group that fights for social welfare benefits has urged the government to give out allowances to all low-income families.

The Society for Community Organisation has suggested - ahead of the chief executive's Policy Address this month - that the government subsidise all low-income families regardless of whether they had children, but that those with children should get more subsidies.

This followed reports quoting government sources as saying it would spend HK$2 billion on helping the poor, giving priority to those with children. It raised concerns that the 175,000 low-income families with no children would be left without help.

The group suggested allowances be given based on income caps similar to those of the work incentive transport subsidy scheme and the hours each household works per month. This means a cap of HK$7,900 for a one-person household.

Those who work for more than 140 hours a month should get the full subsidy while those who work between 72 and 140 hours should get half the allowance, the group said. It also said savings should not be taken into consideration when determining eligibility for the allowance.

"The government should not focus only on those low-income families with children, because other such families, no matter how many members they have, may face problems such as medical expenses for the elderly," Ng Wai-tung, the group's community organiser, said.

Ng said the allowance given to low-income families should be 10 per cent of the household's median monthly income. For example, a one-person household should be entitled to HK$790.

Lam Wai-keung, 64, a cleaner who earns about HK$7,000 a month, hopes the government can give him a monthly allowance of at least HK$1,000 in order for him to meet daily needs.

"I work 25 or 26 days a month, but even so, my salary cannot sustain my expenses for rent, food and the monthly childcare expenses of my son who lives with my ex-wife," he said.

According to the government, 1.31 million people in the city live under the poverty line. Of those, 146,000 people are from oneperson households and about 537,000 people are from working poor households.