Commission on Poverty convenes sixth meeting

     The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, chaired the sixth meeting of the Commission on Poverty (CoP) this afternoon (August 26). The meeting mainly discussed issues related to the poverty line.

     Having regard to the consensus reached by members in earlier discussions in respect of the framework for setting a poverty line, the Government Economist and the Census and Statistics Department have analysed the data from 2011 to identify social, economic, housing and district characteristics of households below the poverty line. The Government Economist and the Census and Statistics Department are now in the process of updating the analysis using the data from 2012. A detailed analysis of households below the poverty line in 2012 will be announced at the CoP Summit on September 28.

     Members also noted that following the setting of the poverty line, the Government would make use of the public consultation for the 2014 Policy Address and the 2014-15 Budget to collate public views on concrete poverty alleviation measures, in particular how to assist low-income working families who are not receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA).

     In addition, the CoP endorsed adjustment to the operational arrangements for four assistance programmes under the Community Care Fund (CCF).

     Following on from previous discussion on whether residents in sub-divided units of industrial buildings or commercial premises should be included as target beneficiaries under the "Subsidy for low-income persons who are inadequately housed" assistance programme, members noted that government departments have clarified the legal issue. Having regard to the function of the CCF in plugging the gaps in the existing system and the plight of residents living in industrial buildings or commercial premises, members unanimously came to the decision of including them as target beneficiaries. It is expected that some 5 000 households living in industrial buildings or commercial premises will benefit. The total expenditure of the programme is expected to increase to $640 million, benefiting more than 210 000 recipients in 78 700 households. The programme will be rolled out before the end of this year. In view of the expansion of the coverage of the programme, it will be renamed as "One-off living subsidy for low-income families not living in public housing and not receiving CSSA".

     However, taking into consideration that industrial buildings are not suitable for residential use, members understood that the Buildings Department has to step up enforcement to ensure the safety of residents. Some members suggested that the CoP Secretariat and the service units assisting in the implementation of this programme should persuade these households to move out as soon as possible to protect their safety.

     In addition, to further relieve the financial pressure of families taking care of persons with severe disabilities, the CoP agreed to relax the income limits for three current programmes to 150 per cent of Hong Kong's median monthly household income. The programmes are the "Provision of special subsidy to persons with severe physical disabilities for renting respiratory support medical equipment" programme, the "Provision of special subsidy to persons with severe physical disabilities for purchasing consumables related to respiratory support medical equipment" programme and the Special Care Subsidy for the Severely Disabled programme. There will be three tiers of subsidy levels, i.e. full grant or three-quarters or half of the subsidy rates, which will be given according to recipients' family income (100 per cent of median monthly household income, more than 100 per cent to 125 per cent, and more than 125 per cent to 150 per cent). The CoP also endorsed the extension of the Special Care Subsidy for the Severely Disabled programme in December 2013 for providing subsidy not exceeding 12 months. The newly revised income limit is applicable to the new round of application. It is expected that the additional number of beneficiaries of the relevant revisions of the three programmes is approximately 1 000. The estimated additional expenditure is about $17 million.

Ends/Monday, August 26, 2013
Issued at HKT 21:26