THE Secretary for Health and Welfare was accused yesterday of being cold-hearted or insane for suggesting a single elderly person should be able to live on $1,800 a month - 100 times less than she earns. Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching said many old people were able to save part of their welfare money. But pressure groups and a legislator challenged Mrs Fok to try for a month to survive on just the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) payment. As secretary overseeing welfare policies, Mrs Fok earns $157,250 a month, with housing and a car. Yesterday she told the Legislative Council adjustments to welfare payments, announced by the Governor in his policy address on Wednesday, were designed to provide the needy with their basic necessities. The rate of payment was set according to a study of the expenditure by the lowest five per cent income group in Hong Kong. The standard handouts for single parents, family carers, the ill, unemployed and old people living with family will rise by between $180 and $560 a month. The increases, however, will not be implemented until April. Children, the disabled and elderly people who are single get nothing extra. Even after the rise, none of the standard rates in any category exceeds $2,000 a month per recipient. Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation, was shocked by the comments. 'I am afraid Mrs Fok is cold-blooded, or even insane. As a normal person, I have sympathy for a person who gets only $1,000 a month. I think how poor he is and I worry about the kind of food he can buy and what kind of life he can have,' he said. 'But Mrs Fok does not. She does not feel any shame and thinks this is enough, even more than enough. 'She does not know how poor the recipients of this allowance are. I would support her for 10 years if she would dare to try to survive on that payment each month.' Ng Wai-tung, a spokesman for the Elderly Rights League, said that if recipients of benefits under the CSSA scheme had savings, this did not mean the payments were sufficient. 'Many old people adhere to the traditional Chinese concept of saving something as 'coffin money'.' Democratic Party legislator Sin Chung-kai said: 'If Mrs Fok really believes the payment is enough, would she try living on it?' Legislator Yeung Sum said the Government should not be using incomes of the lowest five per cent as the basis for setting payments - equal to $60 a day. It was not sufficient just to provide enough to survive, there was a question of quality of life, he said. But Mrs Fok said: 'If we had set the line to the lowest 10, 15 or even 25 per cent income group, the population receiving CSSA benefits would see a big jump in their payments.' About 86,000 households fall within the lowest five per cent income group and there are 150,000 if the line is raised to 10 per cent.