The application criteria for a $300 million community support fund were too rigid to benefit vulnerable people, welfare officials were told yesterday. Legislators made the criticism at a welfare panel meeting on the Community Investment and Inclusion Fund, announced in the October Policy Address. Initially set up for three years, the fund seeks to boost support for vulnerable people in local communities. Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare Robin Gill said the Government expected to approve about 400 applications each year, with each receiving $250,000 on average. 'We also encourage innovative proposals,' Mr Gill added. In a Legco paper, officials said sustainable long-term projects which would become self-financing stood a better chance of receiving funding. But Democrat Yeung Sum criticised the criteria as too 'high- sounding' and the application requirements as too rigid. 'If the Government really wants to help vulnerable groups integrate into society, why have they set so many requirements?' Non-affiliated legislator Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said the administration should consider giving support to projects which were 'half-voluntary' in nature. She also questioned why 'self-financing' was included as a requirement. Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, said: 'If they were capable of achieving self-financing within three years, they would be in business rather than rely on government support.' Democrat Fred Li Wah-ming said the Government should not limit the fund to three years. But Mr Gill said the three-year time limit was necessary. 'As it is a new fund, we have to review it after three years,' he said. He said funding applications would be assessed by a committee comprising representatives from relevant government departments and non-governmental organisations. Groups including the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, Oxfam, the Hong Kong Social Workers' Association and the Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres, supported the establishment of the fund, he said.