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Commission on Poverty convenes third meeting in its second term
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     The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, chaired the third meeting of the Commission on Poverty (CoP) in its second term this afternoon (March 27). Following on the Chief Executive's proposals in the 2015 Policy Address, the CoP endorsed at the meeting the following three new Community Care Fund (CCF) assistance programmes, including íV

(1) Provision of a one-off special subsidy for primary and secondary students on full grant under the School Textbook Assistance Scheme before the launch of the Low-income Working Family Allowance (LIFA), to provide early support to students from low-income families.  Each eligible student will be given a one-off subsidy of $3,600 in the 2015/16 school year. The estimated provision for the programme will amount to around $500 million, and it is expected that more than 130 000 students will benefit from the programme.  The subsidy will be disbursed in late July to August this year;

(2) A three-year pilot programme, "Provision of funding for ordinary schools to arrange special educational needs coordinators", will be launched in the 2015/16 school year. The programme will provide cash subsidy to ordinary schools admitting relatively large number of students with special educational needs and financial needs to designate a teacher for coordinating the support measures related to special educational needs and enhance the effectiveness of integrated education implemented in schools. The estimated provision of the programme will amount to around $200 million. It is expected that 118 schools with some 8 500 students with special educational needs will benefit from the programme; and

(3) A new three-year programme, "Enhancing the academic expenses grant for students with special educational needs pursuing post-secondary programmes", will be launched in the 2015/16 school year. The programme will provide each eligible student with an additional academic expenses grant of up to $8,000 every year, in order to help students with special educational needs pursuing post-secondary programmes in meeting the additional academic expenses incurred due to their educational needs. The estimated provision for the programme will amount to around $12 million.  About 540 students with special educational needs are expected to benefit from the programme every year.

     At the meeting, the CoP also endorsed an exit timetable for the After-school Care Pilot Scheme which has been implemented for about three years, with an extension of the Scheme for the last time for one transition year to the 2015/16 school year, to tally with the Government's policy direction to consolidate different after-school support programmes.  The estimated provision for the extension will amount to around $40 million.  The CoP also endorsed the new drug list (i.e. introducing a drug for curing kidney cancer named Pazopanib), and a financial provision of around $190 million for the fifth year (i.e. August 2015 to July 2016) of the First Phase Programme of the CCF Medical Assistance Programmes.

     In addition, the CoP agreed in principle to launch the "One-off Living Subsidy for Low-income Household Not Living in Public Housing and Not Receiving CSSA" programme the third time, in order to support those underprivileged families which cannot benefit from the one-off relief measures proposed in the 2015-16 Budget. The programme is expected to be re-launched in January next year. The CCF Task Force will consider the details concerned and put forward recommendations to the CoP later.

     Continuing previous discussions on retirement protection, members were briefed at the meeting on the functions of the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) in retirement protection by the representatives from the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau and the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority (MPFA). MPF being one of the five pillars for retirement protection as put forward by the World Bank has helped more than 2.5 million employees to save for retirement. Its net asset value now exceeds $570 billion and will continue to grow as the MPF system matures. MPF helps alleviate society's burden of retirement protection for individuals. Members noted that the MPFA has implemented different measures, including Default Investment Strategy, to lower the fees concerned and increase employees' control on investment made.

     Members also noted that Dr David Wong Yau-kar had resigned as a CoP member on March 16. The Chief Secretary for Administration as the Chairperson of the CoP, Mrs Carrie Lam, expressed her gratitude at the meeting to Dr Wong's contribution to the work of the CoP in the past two years.

Ends/Friday, March 27, 2015
Issued at HKT 21:10

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