At least 37,000 children may become the hidden victims of welfare cuts, an academic has warned. They could become a second generation forced into the social security net because of lack of opportunity to climb the social ladder, said Henry Mok Tai-kee, associate professor of applied social studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. Social Welfare Department figures show about 16,572 children under 10 were supported by dole payments as were 21,126 youngsters aged between 10 and 19. While the Government has pledged that families with a child under 12 will not be subject to its cost-cutting review, Professor Mok is worried that these 37,000-plus youngsters could eventually become the most underprivileged in the system. His fears were backed by a survey of 1,019 people polled by Baptist University in which about 87 per cent said they believed children whose families were on the dole should enjoy the same resources and opportunities as other children in their development. The survey found more than half thought payments were insufficient to cover food costs, and that single parents should not be forced to work when their youngest child reached 12, as proposed. The Government has suggested an 11 per cent cut in public assistance for families of three from $8,950 to $8,010. Families of four will face a 16 per cent cut from $11,280 to $9,450. The cuts would leave each family member about $30 for food every day, said Odalia Wong Ho Ming-hung, assistant professor for Sociology at the Baptist University. 'The Government should ensure a CSSA child grows up having the same opportunities and resources as every other child,' Professor Mok said. 'If they end up in some low-paid jobs because of a lack of chances, a cycle of poverty may emerge.' Au Pak-kuen, vice-president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, said these children would be disadvantaged. 'The Government is rather uncaring. We've urged it to subsidise students from CSSA families to buy a computer but it has rejected us.' Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Hong Kong should provide more than just basic food and clothing for the children. A spokesman for the Social Welfare Department said welfare payments were meant to cater for basic needs.