A plan to subsidise thousands of child-care places is a step in the right direction but not enough to cope with the full extent of home-alone neglect, welfare specialists said. The Financial Secretary announced that 6,000 existing places run by non-government organisations would receive subsidies. The exact level of the subsidy will be spelled out tomorrow. Also, 60 new pre-school places for disabled children will be created and the operating hours of child-care facilities will be extended. The executive secretary of the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights, John So Sze-chun, welcomed the new subsidies. 'This kind of service is needed, especially since more and more mainland immigrants are coming in. Usually both parents have to work and they don't have the income to hire maids to take care of the kids,' he said. Against Child Abuse director Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai said the neglect of young children was reaching dangerous levels. 'There are so many primary and pre-school children left alone at home, the sheer scale of the problem requires even greater commitment,' she said. Fourteen children under 10 died from accidents while left alone in 1998, up from five in 1997, the Social Welfare Department said. And 192 children were found alone at home in 163 fires in 1998, the Fire Services Department said.