Needy families are being further impoverished by the fees they have to pay for computers their children use at home, say welfare workers. They want the government to pay for a 'one family, one computer' scheme, because computers are now a daily necessity and indispensable learning tools. The call followed a survey released yesterday that found 14.9 per cent of poor families could not afford a computer at home. For those who do have computers, 73.6 per cent found the internet fees and software too expensive. Raising this money lowered their quality of life. Among common ways to cut spending was 'cutting electricity bill by washing clothes by hand', 'travelling by foot whenever possible' and 'cutting expenditure on meals by buying less food'. The survey, conducted in June and July by a coalition of 18 social welfare concern groups, interviewed 201 families in old districts. A spokesman for the coalition said computers had become an important learning tool and most schoolwork required their use. 'It could affect the academic performance of a child if he does not have access to a computer at home,' the spokesman said. Free computers are available in some facilities like public libraries, but demand is great and users often face a lengthy wait. The coalition said the government should help needy families. A mother living on public assistance in Sham Shui Po said she could not afford to buy a computer for her daughter. 'But she needs a computer to do homework. So, when it is needed I have to call around to ask relatives to let her use their home computer for a few hours,' the mother said. On one occasion she had to take her daughter to Tuen Mun to use a computer at her sister's home.