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LCQ7: SFAA's discretion to approve applications

    Following is a question by the Hon Yeung Sum and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (February 27):


    Under the existing Kindergarten and Child Care Centre Fee Remission Scheme, Senior Secondary Fee Remission Scheme, School Textbook Assistance Scheme and Student Travel Subsidy Scheme, the Student Financial Assistance Agency ("SFAA") may exercise its discretion to approve the relevant applications to ensure that applicants genuinely in need can obtain financial assistance.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council :

(a) of the criteria for exercising the above discretion by SFAA;

(b) in the past five years, of the respective numbers of cases in which SFAA exercised its discretion to grant half or full fee remission or half or full grant under each of the above schemes; and

(c) of the channels through which applicants of the above schemes may seek SFAA's discretionary approval for their applications?


Madam President,

(a) In processing applications under the Kindergarten and Child Care Centre Fee Remission Scheme, the Senior Secondary Fee Remission Scheme, the School Textbook Assistance Scheme and the Student Travel Subsidy Scheme, the Student Financial Assistance Agency (SFAA) adopts the "Adjusted Family Income" mechanism for conducting means test to assess the eligibility of a family for student financial assistance and the assistance level applicable to it.  The family income refers to the applicant's family income in the previous financial year.  If a particular family encounters immediate financial hardship, SFAA would exercise discretion to approve the family's application or increase the family's assistance level to ensure that the family concerned would receive appropriate assistance.  When exercising discretion, SFAA's major considerations are whether the family concerned has exceptional and unforeseen financial hardship after submission of application due to, for instance, the breadwinner's death, serious illness, unemployment, significant drop in income or cessation of financial support to the family after deserting the family.

(b) In the past 5 school years, the number of cases granted discretionary approval or increase in assistance level (including half or full grant) is as follows -

Student      2003/04 2004/05 2005/06 2006/07 2007/08
Financial    (Note1) (Note1) (Note1) (Note2)

Kindergarten  SFAA has not maintained  134      49
and Child      relevant statistics.
Care Centre 
Fee Remission

Senior          755    607    513    502    385

School        1,267  1,033    785    782    612

Student        811    634    511    574    467

Note1: The statistics for the 2003/04 to 2005/06 school years include only cases recommended by principals of primary and secondary schools.  SFAA has not maintained the number of applications submitted to it directly for re-assessment of assistance level.

Note2: As at February 15, 2008.

(c) Applicants of the above assistance schemes may reflect directly to SFAA their exceptional and unforeseen financial hardship, and request SFAA to re-assess their application.  SFAA will re-assess the applicants' assistance level in accordance with their latest family financial situation.  The procedure for applying for re-assessment is set out in the Guidance Notes of the respective schemes.

    In addition, applicants with children studying in primary or secondary schools may apply for discretionary awards of assistance through the school principal.  Each year, SFAA provides schools with guidelines on the discretionary arrangements, setting out the matters which principals should consider in making recommendations for such arrangements.  Principals concerned may put up recommendations to SFAA with regard to the students' particular circumstances.  SFAA will consider the cases concerned, and may exercise discretion to approve the applications or increase the assistance level to render appropriate support for students with financial hardship.

Ends/Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Issued at HKT 14:56


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