Single parents of primary school pupils will not be forced to find employment The government has dropped plans to force single parents on welfare who have children attending primary school to work. In an apparent concession to welfare groups, the Social Welfare Department has also abandoned a proposal to abolish a special allowance for single parents. In the original plan, single parents with a child aged between six and 14 would have had to earn at least $1,430 a month, and work at least 32 hours a month, to continue to receive a $225 single parent supplement under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). They would also be required to look for work in order to keep their CSSA. The proposals had sparked fierce criticism from social services groups and the underprivileged. Wilfred Wong Ying-wai, chairman of the government's Social Welfare Advisory Committee, said yesterday that the government had decided only single parents with children aged between 12 and 14 would be required to look for work. The requirement on minimum salary had also been dropped. The change from the original proposal would reduce the number of single parents affected from 54,000 to 18,000, Mr Wong said. 'It will be easier for us to help single parents integrate into society if we start with a smaller number.' He said children aged 12 or above should have left primary school and would not demand as much attention from their parents as those in primary school. But Mr Wong said those who refused to look for work after repeated warnings and government support would have to face a cut of $200 a month in their basic benefit. He stressed the amount constituted only 2 to 3.5 per cent of the monthly sum a single parent in a family of four received. The $225-a-month single parent supplement, which the department had earlier said should be scrapped, would also continue, the chairman said. The changes, which will be discussed at a meeting of the Legislative Council's subcommittee on the review of CSSA on July 22, are expected to come into force in April. However, Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, a legislator representing the welfare sector, said he feared single parents would be treated as unemployed welfare recipients, who were required to prove to department staff that they had tried to apply for at least two jobs every two weeks. 'The single parents need child-care services, retraining, counselling and job-matching support before they can genuinely integrate into the job market. Treating them like the unemployed is not what we want,' he said. Paul Tang Kwok-wai, director of social welfare, said the advisory committee had agreed to give a special two-year, one-off grant to NGOs that cannot meet their budgets after the end of tide-over grants given to them to cope with government changes to their funding. He promised the department would also consider offering extra support on a case-by-case basis.