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Commission on Poverty convenes second meeting

     The Commission on Poverty (the Commission), chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, held its second meeting in the afternoon today (March 28).

     The Commission noted that the Social Security and Retirement Protection (SS&RP) Task Force held two meetings in 2013 to follow up on the setting of a poverty line. SS&RP Task Force had intensive discussions on how to set a poverty line having regard to the actual circumstances of Hong Kong and objective data, with a view to formulating a set of tools which would serve the three functions of the poverty line, namely analysing the poverty situation, facilitating policy formulation, and assessing policy effectiveness.

     With reference to the discussion of the two meetings of SS&RP Task Force, the Commission has initially agreed to adopt the concept of relative poverty as the framework for setting the poverty line, including using median household income as the basis for calculation, and reflecting the change between pre-policy and post-policy intervention with quantitative figures, thereby assessing the effectiveness of poverty alleviation measures. Noting that the above methodology would not consider households' assets, members agreed that the poverty line should not be pegged directly with the eligibility criteria for application of various means-tested social welfare schemes.

     The Commission, apart from continuing the discussion on the poverty line, will also interact with the public to build consensus within the community with a view to setting the poverty line within this year.

     Besides, the Commission took note of the latest development of the 18 assistance programmes which have been launched since the establishment of the Community Care Fund (CCF) in early 2011. The Commission also unanimously supported the CCF Task Force's proposal for funding injection to support three programmes, including to continue the "Subsidy to meet lunch expenses at whole-day primary schools for students from low-income families" programme and the "After-school care pilot scheme" in the 2013-14 school year, and to increase the funding for the implementation of the "Medical Assistance Programme first phase" for the second year.

     The Commission also welcomed and supported the Financial Secretary's proposal to inject an additional $15 billion into the CCF in the 2013-14 financial year. This would enable the CCF to serve the following three purposes:

(1) providing assistance to persons who could not benefit from the Budget's relief measures;

(2) enhancing the CCF's capacity to plug the gaps in the existing system and launching more targeted assistance programmes and pilot schemes to help those who are facing economic difficulties; and

(3) continuing the implementation of programmes which are proved to be effective but have yet to be incorporated into the Government's regular assistance programme for the time being owing to the recurrent expenditure limit of a particular year or the time taken to study or rationalise related policies, so that assistance can be provided to the needy continuously.

     In the coming year, the CCF Task Force will consider suggestions from other task forces and take forward other assistance programmes so as to make good use of the proposed injection to the CCF. These programmes include the following two:

(1) the CCF Task Force will expedite the review of the "Subsidy for low-income elderly tenants in private housing" and "Subsidy for low-income persons who are inadequately housed" programmes, taking into account views from the public and the elderly centres/community service units assisting in implementing the programmes. In particular, consideration will be given to rationalising the eligibility criteria and subsidy level of the programmes, and relaxing the definition of "inadequately housed" to benefit families living in "sub-divided units" with individual entrance doors, with a view to re-launching the two programmes in an integrated approach to help more disadvantaged groups; and

(2) for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients living in rented private housing, the CCF Task Force will consider re-launching the "Subsidy for CSSA recipients living in rented private housing paying rents that exceed the maximum rent allowance under CSSA" programme with a view to relieving their financial pressure.

Ends/Thursday, March 28, 2013
Issued at HKT 20:56


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