More than 40 per cent of disadvantaged families say their children cannot afford to join the government's child-development fund project, a survey has found. Under the scheme, to be rolled out in October, at least 700 needy children aged 10 to 16 will each try to save HK$200 a month over two years, with the business sector or individual donors matching that sum. Children with special financial difficulties will be allowed to set a lower savings target. Participants who successfully complete the savings programme will be given an additional HK$3,000 by the government. The savings can then be used according to the children's individual development plans under the supervision of an NGO. But in a poll of 102 low-income families carried out by the Society for Community Organisation from February to last month, 43 per cent of the respondents said they could not afford to make any contributions. Some 22 per cent said they could only save HK$1 to HK$100 a month. Only 34 per cent said they could save HK$200 or more for the project. The survey found that 53.8 per cent of respondents said they had to cut meal expenses to save HK$200. The group said the families polled had a median household income of HK$7,000 a month, and 52 per cent of respondents were living on welfare. Children whose families are receiving CSSA or whose household income is less than 75 per cent of the median monthly household income - HK$17,250 in 2006 - are eligible to apply for the scheme. Meanwhile, 72.5 per cent of the families polled said their children were willing to do voluntary work in place of the HK$200 contributions for the project. On International Children's Day yesterday, Wong Chi-yuen, a community organiser with the society, said: 'If the government asks low- income families to make these monetary contributions, it will just make their lives even harder.' He called on the government to allow children from families with financial difficulties to do voluntary work instead, so they would not have to reduce their food budget. Li Xiulan, a mother of two daughters aged three and 10, said her elder daughter, Lung Ka-yee, would not apply for the scheme even though she was eligible. 'We cannot afford to make any contributions. My husband works freelance at construction sites and has a very unstable income,' said Ms Li, whose husband earned about HK$8,000 a month, HK$1,000 short of the sum needed to cover their living expenses. She said that last month, she had to borrow HK$3,000 from the society to make ends meet.