Social welfare groups are urging the government to scrap a plan to tighten rules requiring single parents on the dole to find jobs when their children reach the age of 12 instead of 15. They have also criticised government child-care services for failing to help single parents return to the labour market. A survey by the Alliance Concerning Comprehensive Social Security Assistance polled 277 single parents last month. It found that more than 70 per cent had been jobless for the past 18 months - mostly because they had to take care of their children and could not afford or find a suitable day-care centre. The alliance represents 16 social welfare NGOs. Close to 60 per cent of those surveyed did not know government child-care services were available. Of those who did use the services, almost 70 per cent said they were dissatisfied. A source yesterday said the government was planning to require single parents of younger children to work and would be reviewing welfare polices. 'The government will deal with single parents first,' said the source, who has access to information available to the government's social welfare advisory committee but is not a member. It is understood the government has not finalised a revised age limit for children of single parents on welfare, but according to the source a plan would be presented to the Legislative Council soon. While the government does not need legislative approval to impose the changes, it is reluctant to do so without support among legislators. Single parents receiving welfare payments have to join a self-reliance scheme when their children turn 15, requiring them to attend job interviews and perform community work. Under the new proposal, single parents with 12-year-olds would have to join - a move that could affect 39,821 one-parent families. One such family is that of Fung Mei-yung, 40, and her two daughters, aged 11 and nine. 'If I am forced to work and have to leave my kids alone and if something happens to them, I could be prosecuted for neglect, and they could be taken away from me,' Ms Fung said. Yesterday, the alliance said the government must improve support services for single parents.