Two teenage brothers missed their first day at school yesterday after their mother allegedly gambled away $8,000 in welfare support meant to pay for their new uniforms and books.
But the woman, 49, last night denied losing the cash gambling on mahjong, saying instead that she had 'dropped it'.
Neighbours on the Tai Yuen estate, Tai Po, said the woman had told them her sons, 13 and 14, were too embarrassed to go to school without uniforms and books and she had had to telephone the school to excuse them.
She told them she had gambled the $8,000 away playing mahjong, they claimed.
Police were called when the neighbours saw the mother banging her head against a wall on the estate.
They said the woman had become hysterical after she had tried and failed to borrow money from a friend.
The housewife was later taken to Northern Hospital, in the New Territories, for observation before being discharged when she calmed down.
The Social Welfare Department said the family had been living on $6,000 a month welfare since the woman's divorce four years ago. It said that last month she had received $14,000, including an extra $8,000 for her sons' books and uniforms.
A department spokesman said social workers had contacted the woman but she had denied she gambled away the money.
Social workers said they would provide the family with emergency food while further inquiries were made.
'We will consider other ways to help her two sons to get back to school as quickly as possible,' a spokesman said.