Kindergartens suffer as increasing number of welfare recipients lag on payments A growing number of welfare recipients are claiming kindergarten fees but pocketing the money themselves, it was claimed yesterday. Officials were urged to tighten monitoring of the scheme after a survey found more welfare parents are failing to pay the fees than two years ago. Of the 103 kindergartens and nurseries polled, 83 of them had families living on welfare who had failed to pay fees on time. Of these, 67 per cent of the schools said some welfare recipients delayed payment for three months or more. Sixty per cent said parents transferred their children after falling behind on their fees. Association of Early Childhood Teacher Education chairwoman Mak Tse How-ling said late payment of school fees was never a problem before 2003 and the situation was serious. Previously, families on welfare had to submit receipts for school fees to the Social Welfare Department every month before they could claim any money. 'But now these families only have to give a letter issued by pre-schools to prove their children are students of our schools and list the amount of the tuition fees at the beginning of a school year,' she said. They then received the money every month. Some schools had asked the Social Welfare Department to intervene, but nothing had been done to help them get the fees. 'The department only said they would talk to the families or deduct their money. But we never get the money they owe us,' she said. The groups urged the government to directly transfer the money to pre-schools, as the present system failed to ensure welfare families would spend the allocated money on their children's education. A spokeswoman for the Social Welfare Department said all recipients were required to submit receipts of their expenses in general, and random checks were conducted to avoid abuse. But she failed to specify how often welfare recipients were required to submit receipts. 'All cases are reviewed from time to time and once we spot welfare recipients who fail to submit receipts and do not spend their money on their prescribed basic needs, our social workers will contact them,' she said. It was the welfare recipients' responsibility to manage their own finances. Although she admitted failure to pay school fees was much like failure to pay rent, when welfare recipients failed to pay rent the money could be directly transferred to a landlord, unlike with fees.