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Commission on Poverty convenes 11th meeting

     The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, chaired the 11th meeting of the Commission on Poverty (CoP) this afternoon (June 12).

     The discussion mainly focused on assistance programmes under the Community Care Fund (CCF) and the re-organisation of the CoP in the coming term. The CoP endorsed the launching of two new CCF assistance programmes. Details are as follows:

(1) A three-year programme, "Providing hostel subsidy for needy undergraduate students", will be launched in the 2014/15 school year. The programme will provide eligible needy undergraduate students who are offered hostel places with a maximum subsidy of $8,000 per year, so that they will not be denied hostel accommodation because of lack of means. The estimated provision for the programme will amount to around $137 million, benefitting about 6 600 needy undergraduate students in the first year of implementation; and

(2) A three-year programme, "Increasing the academic expenses grant under the Financial Assistance Scheme for Post-secondary Students", will be launched in the 2014/15 school year. The programme will provide students pursuing self-financing post-secondary programmes with an additional academic expenses grant of up to $2,000. The maximum academic expenses grant per year will be increased from $4,700 to $6,700 for covering various academic expenses. The estimated provision for the programme will amount to around $151 million, and about
31 000 students will benefit from the programme each year.

     Members of the CoP also took note that all donations to the CCF committed by members of the public and commercial corporations have been collected in full. As at the end of April 2014, the total commitment for the programmes launched was around $3.23 billion and the cash balance was some $20.953 billion.

     Following the discussion at the last meeting, the Labour and Welfare Bureau has refined the design of the Low-income Working Family Allowance having regard to the views expressed by members of the CoP and stakeholders. Members unanimously supported the latest adjustments made to the Allowance, under which the working hour requirement for the higher rate of basic allowance is lowered to 192 hours per month. Members noted that the Legislative Council (LegCo)'s Establishment Subcommittee has passed the manpower proposals for the scheme, while funding proposals would be submitted to the Finance Committee for consideration in July. Members hoped that the proposals will be endorsed by the LegCo on time so that government departments can proceed with the preparatory work immediately to enable implementation of the Allowance in 2015.

     Regarding the re-organisation of the CoP, members agreed to maintain the two-tier structure comprising the Commission and Task Forces, with the number of Task Forces reducing from the existing six to four. The four Task Forces will be responsible for the Community Care Fund, the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund, promoting youth mobility and supporting the underprivileged with special needs. Members also agreed that the CoP should be conterminous with the current-term Government. The coming term of the CoP will run from December 1, 2014, to June 30, 2017.

     Members also noted that the Efficiency Unit commissioned in May a consultancy study to examine the feasibility of providing a more user-friendly one-stop service for processing applications for welfare benefits. Members were briefed by the consultants on the study and relevant overseas experience.

Ends/Thursday, June 12, 2014
Issued at HKT 20:00


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