NEVER leave your children unattended'' is the slogan for a new campaign to safeguard children left at home alone. This piece of advice - which may soon become law - is certainly welcome, but for most single-parent families it is also of very little use. Although in the past 10 years the Government has put more effort into social issues, still little has been down to solve many of the problems confronting single parents. ''In Hongkong there is no specific family policy for single parents,'' said Jessie Yu, a social worker and single parent who has been active since 1991 in setting up a single parents' group. ''Most people think this is not an issue. Last month I entered a competition organised by the YMCA and a Hongkong radio channel to select the top 10 outstanding voluntary women workers. During the interview I was not even questioned on my activity but emphasis instead was placed on the use of our organisation. Mr Eric Li Ka-cheung, a Legco member, attacked me, asking 'What is the problem? Why do you create problems when they don't exist?' '' ''But,'' Ms Yu said, ''the problem does exist and the proof is that since we started this group more than 160 members have joined. But we still have many problems in sensitising public opinion and moving the Government to do something.'' More than 36,500 households in Hongkong are single parent families. This means that 2.5 per cent of all Hongkong families are headed by parents who are either widowed, divorced or separated. Most have low incomes and 11.4 per cent of them rely on public assistance. ''Money is my main worry,'' said Helen who has two young children. ''I rely on public assistance and every month my budget is $3,560. My ex-husband refuses to help. I have no working skills and would need some training to enter the job market. But the Government prefers to pay me this small allowance every month insteadof sponsoring some courses. It makes me feel like a handicapped person when I know that with the right help I could be independent and self-sufficient.'' Yim works as a laboratory attendant and earns $6,000 a month but is also in difficulty. ''Even though unlike many others I have a job and enjoy public housing, I still cannot afford a maid for my two children. When they come out of school at one o'clock I have no choice but to leave them at home on their own.'' Although public assistance can cover fees for attending creches, kindergartens or privately arranged baby-sitters, it does not distinguish between single parents and others. Often in Hongkong, charity works better than social welfare. The law requires spouses to pay family maintenance but often fathers do not comply. Prosecuting them is a long and expensive procedure that even lawyers at the legal aid office discourage. Housing needs also illustrate the lack of a specific policy for single parents. They have no special status and are selected for housing on the same basis as other families. This is especially painful when a family sharing public housing splits up: one of the parents will lose the house and also the right to public housing. ''The Government bases the standard of living only on an income basis,'' said Ms Yu, ''but seems to ignore that single parent families have to face extra costs.'' Single parents with higher incomes also protest that taxes are unfair. Regina, a widow, said: ''I earn $15,000 and must pay a full-time maid and have no rights to public housing, school or clothing allowance but still I owe the tax office the same amountas a normal family. With my salary it appears that I would be entitled to a housing scheme for first-time buyers only if my family was composed of three members. I don't think it's fair.'' Thanks to a donation by Duty Free Shoppers in 1991, the Concern Group for Single Parents was able to establish a weekly hot-line providing counselling and information on social services, legal and medical advice. It has also become a source of academic research. ''We are trying to set up a data bank which we feel will help people to understand better the special needs and the real situation of single parents in Hongkong and eventually bring about a specific policy from the authorities,'' said Jessie. The group is also launching a funding campaign to employ qualified staff, open a ''drop-in'' centre and a job training programme.