Schemes in place to help welfare recipients aim for self-reliance

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2016, 4:43pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2016, 8:12pm

I refer to Fiona Hui’s letter (“Reform CSSA scheme so people get help and have incentive to work”, September 18).

The overall caseload of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) has decreased continuously, from 282,351 in April 2011 to 240,267 last month. It is noteworthy that unemployment CSSA cases have continued to fall in the past seven years. They account for only 6.3 per cent of the overall caseload. This reflects that most able-bodied CSSA recipients will opt for self-reliance.

Unemployed able-bodied CSSA recipients are required to seek full-time employment actively and participate in the Support for Self-reliance Scheme. It aims at providing them with services including regular work plan interviews, job matching services, post-employment support, as well as training programmes.

To tackle working poverty and promote self-reliance, we recently launched the Low-income Working Family Allowance. Eligible working families will be given a monthly basic allowance (HK$600) tied to employment and working hours, while eligible children will receive an additional allowance of HK$800 each.

If the applicant works 192 hours or more, a higher allowance (HK$1,000) is payable. As at mid-September, around HK$250 million has been disbursed benefiting over 20,000 families comprising 77,000 persons.

Let me stress that the Hong Kong SAR government is fully committed to helping those who cannot help themselves through the CSSA safety net, while promoting self-reliance through open employment.

On rent allowance under the CSSA scheme, an annual adjustment mechanism is in place. The maximum rent allowance has been raised by 5.8 per cent this year, bringing the cumulative increase between 2012 and 2016 to 37 per cent.

The Social Welfare Department will continue to closely monitor the movement of the relevant rent index and adjust the allowance.

Meanwhile, the Community Care Fund also extended the “Subsidy for CSSA Recipients Living in Rented Private Housing” in 2015 to ease their financial burden in the face of periodic rent increases.

In the long run, the government will increase the supply of public rental housing to address the housing needs of needy groups.

Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, secretary for labour and welfare