The Government has paid out more in welfare benefits than it should have, Secretary for Health and Welfare Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching said yesterday. But the proposals to cut Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) payments were not made because of this. 'We adjusted the rate of CSSA payment every year in accordance with our forecast of an increase in the consumer price index. It's a forecast and sometimes it's not necessarily accurate,' Mrs Fok said. 'In theory, we should have readjusted the figure. We have not done it over the past few years. 'Therefore, the amount has become accumulated. We have actually paid more to them,' she said on a radio phone-in programme. Under the new proposals, a family receiving an average of $8,950 would only be given $8,010. A family of four now receiving $11,280 would see their benefits reduced to $9,450. The Government said many low-skilled jobs were only paying between $5,000 and $9,000. Mrs Fok was challenged by some callers to justify slashing payouts 10 to 20 per cent. She said the cuts had been decided after taking into account the basic needs and consumption pattern of households in a survey. Mrs Fok maintained the Government was committed and obliged to maintain a safety net for those who could not take care of their basic needs. 'But it is equally clear that those who are capable should rely on their own. I think the community has a consensus on that,' she said. Mrs Fok said figures showed the number of unemployment CSSA cases had continued to climb sharply even in times of economic boom and low unemployment. 'It's an unusual phenomenon,' she said Unionist Tam Yiu-chung, who sits on the Executive Council, said it might consider amendments to the proposals after the consultation. He said the idea was to help unemployed people back into the community.