The new seven-year residence requirement for social welfare applicants would be waived for those aged under 18, the social welfare chief said yesterday. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the Director of Social Welfare, said although the new population policy, which was released last month, stated that only people who had lived in Hong Kong for more than seven years would be eligible for welfare payments, it would not apply to minors. At present, people who have lived in Hong Kong for one year can apply for payments under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) scheme. Mrs Lam said the adjustment was being made because the growth of Hong Kong's population relied heavily on mainland immigrants. According to the latest government statistics, about 69,000 CSSA recipients have lived in Hong Kong for less than seven years, accounting for 14.9 per cent of the total number receiving the payments. Almost half of them are children. 'At present, only 18 per cent of one-way permit holders are on welfare. The rest of them are self-reliant. We have tried to balance out the needs of new immigrants and the cost of subsidising them,' Mrs Lam told legislators at a health and welfare panel meeting. 'However, adults who can support themselves in their own country should not expect to live on the dole after coming to Hong Kong. Of course, special consideration will be given to the really needy. But people should consider whether or not they can make a living by themselves before choosing to come here.' The implementation date of the new policy has not yet been set. But Mrs Lam said residents who were already in Hong Kong would not be affected. She also said she would use her discretionary power to grant CSSA payments under special circumstances. 'We will look at it on a case-by-case basis. For example, if a woman is coming to Hong Kong to take care of her children because her husband has died, the residence rule would be waived,' she said.