Workers warn that people in need may commit suicide as their despair grows A social crisis is likely to emerge amid severe welfare cuts announced this year, as new arrivals and single-parent families struggle for support, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service warned yesterday. Eight centres now provide services for new migrants from the mainland and five centres for single-parent families, but all of them face closure once their funding runs out, according to the council. 'The budget cuts affect these two groups most, as these centres cannot continue their services due to the lack of funding,' said Christine Fang Man-seng, council chief executive. Welfare spending costs the government about $30 billion a year, two-thirds of which is spent on social security payments. Most of the remaining $10 billion subsidises non-government organisations. Spending cuts of 1.8 per cent, or $120 million, this financial year will mainly affect the NGOs. Another 3 per cent will be cut next year. The Council of Social Service said small-scale voluntary groups may not be able to survive the budget cuts. 'Not only the service quality will be compromised because of the limited funding, but social workers might have to face another round of salary cuts,' Ms Fang said. She said the government should not save money at the expense of social harmony and stability. 'The government believes that once the economy recovers, social problems will disappear, but it just does not work that way. We can sense that a social crisis is there,' Ms Fang said. She said disadvantaged people were not receiving enough help and care so their feelings of helplessness could mount and lead to a social crisis involving instability, family violence and suicide among the elderly. Ms Fang said the poorly educated group would not benefit much from the economic recovery. 'These people are only primary school graduates and most are middle-aged. It is too late for them to attend training programmes. They have no way out of poverty and, sadly, they are the ones who shoulder their family's financial burdens,' she said. 'The government cannot continue to cut costs. People need more social services, or they will be left alone feeling hopeless and the anger will fill up society.'