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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (6)

Helping the Disadvantaged

46. Over the past two years, the Commission on Poverty has held in-depth discussions on ways to prevent or alleviate poverty and to promote self-reliance, provided the Government with specific proposals and assisted in taking forward work on poverty alleviation.  I will allocate about $900 million to implement a series of measures to help the disadvantaged, including those that promote employment, support the development of social enterprises, strengthen families, nurture children and take care of the elderly.  The Commission will continue to study the feasibility of other poverty-alleviation measures and will submit a report to the Government in the middle of this year.

Promoting Employment, Moving towards Self-reliance

47. The core principle of our poverty-alleviation policy is to help the disadvantaged move from welfare to self-reliance through promoting employment.  In fostering economic development, we must also address the needs of our workers who are unable to adapt to economic restructuring.  We will do so by providing them with employment assistance and retraining opportunities, so as to help them achieve self-reliance and improve their livelihood, with a view to building a harmonious society.

48. The Government has accepted the Commission's recommendation to introduce a one-year pilot Transport Support Scheme in the middle of this year, to encourage unemployed and low-income people in financial difficulties who live in remote areas to seek jobs and work across districts.  It is estimated that this scheme will incur expenditure of about $300 million.  To enhance youth employability, we will also provide a transport allowance for participants in the Youth Pre-Employment Training Programme and the Youth Work Experience and Training Programme.

49. As for CSSA recipients at work, I will raise the "no-deduction" limit for disregarded earnings from $600 to $800 and relax the criteria for allowing CSSA recipients to be eligible for disregarded earnings from not less than three months on CSSA to not less than two months.  We estimate the cost of this initiative to be about $30 million a year.

Supporting Social Enterprises

50. In last year's Budget, I proposed that we should support the development of social enterprises, and this has been widely accepted by the community.  The Enhancing Self-Reliance Through Partnership Programme launched by the Home Affairs Department has so far provided funding to 41 social enterprise projects, which are expected to provide about 750 jobs.  In order to nurture more management talent for social enterprises, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and various tertiary institutions, with the support of the Commission on Poverty, will offer Hong Kong's first social enterprise management training course in the middle of this year.  In collaboration with the business, social welfare and education sectors, we will continue our efforts to promote and facilitate the further development of social enterprises in Hong Kong.

Strengthening Family Support, Fostering Child Development

51. Over the past two years, we have provided additional funding of about $200 million for the provision of support services to families and children in need.  In 2007íV08, further funding will be provided to the following services:

* $52 million to provide more places in early education and training centres and special child-care centres for pre-school children with disabilities, and more day training and residential service places for people with disabilities.  The Government appreciates the community's demand for residential services for those with disabilities and will endeavour to address this issue;

* $31 million to give better care to victims of domestic violence, strengthen family welfare services and expand child-care services for families in need;

* $20 million to enhance outreach services for the promotion of mental health in the community and early identification of people with psychological disturbances, so that they may be given appropriate support; and

* an allocation of about $10 million over the next three years to expand the Capacity Building Mileage Programme by strengthening education in parenting, encouraging continuous learning and assisting more women to enhance their capabilities.

52. To provide children from a disadvantaged background with more development opportunities, I will earmark $300 million to set up a child development fund.  The Commission on Poverty will discuss the fund's detailed operation.  We also plan to extend the Comprehensive Child Development Service to all districts in phases and strengthen social services support.

Strengthening Elderly Support

53. The Government will continue to allocate resources to strengthen elderly care and support services.  In 2007íV08, the following new or improved services will be introduced and funded by:

* an additional $38 million to 156 elderly centres to enhance their outreach programmes, so as to encourage and assist more elderly singletons, particularly the unidentified ones, to develop their social life, and provide referral and supporting services to those in need;

* an additional $16 million to provide more subsidised residential care places in new purpose-built residential care homes for the elderly.  As the population ages, the demand for subsidised residential care places for the elderly will increase.  The Commission on Poverty and Elderly Commission will continue to explore ways of responding to the challenge effectively; and

* allocating $96 million in the next four years to implement a trial scheme in two districts to provide one-stop support services to elderly dischargees who have difficulty taking care of themselves.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Issued at HKT 11:39


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