Family struggles in the poverty trap

THE $146 billion in overall government spending will mean about $10 extra a day for one family struggling to survive on social welfare payments.

Wan Choi Yee-kwan has had to rely on handouts from friends and neighbours to help her support her three children since her husband died two years ago.

Stricken with cancer, she has to make regular trips to hospital, is unable to work and finds it hard to get by on about $4,700 in monthly welfare payments.

Mrs Wan, 48, said she and her children had little opportunity to enjoy many of the services provided by the Government.

''The huge amount spent on environment and infrastructure means nothing to my family. I doubt whether my family will benefit from it,'' she said.

''We seldom go to gardens and country parks and the new airport will do little for this district. We would like to have extra money.'' Mrs Wan and her daughters aged 14 and 15, together with her 10-year-old son, live in a 300 square foot flat in Shek Yam Estate, Kwai Chung.

She should qualify for an additional $300 a month under the multi-billion-dollar expenditure figures announced yesterday.

''The extra money [$300] will make no difference to our living standards and might be just enough to cover two reference books for my elder daughter,'' Mrs Wan said.

She said it was very difficult to bring up a family with just $4,700 a month.

''We have to pay about $850 for rent and $3,000 for food a month. When I go to the market, I have to count every cent I will spend and I always buy cheap vegetables.

''My children ask me for more pocket money but I cannot give it to them. There is not much money left after paying for rent and food. Most of our clothes come from community centres. The children cannot attend extra-curricular activities such as picnics and sports days because I cannot afford it.'' Mrs Wan said she was very worried about how she would bring up her three children.

''My health could get worse at any time. I just want my children to continue their studies and become good citizens,'' said Mrs Wan, who has to go to Tuen Mun Hospital for a medical checkup once a week.

She said the Government should give out genuine special needs allowances.

''The Government gives several thousands dollars to adoptive parents to take care of orphans every month. But my family received less than $5,000. It is ridiculous and unfair,'' she said.