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Commission on Poverty convenes 17th meeting in its second term

     The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, chaired the 17th meeting of the Commission on Poverty (CoP) in its second term this afternoon (March 17). This meeting mainly reviewed the work progress of the public engagement exercise on retirement protection, and discussed assistance programmes under the Community Care Fund (CCF) and the poverty alleviation work in districts.

     The CoP noted the progress of the public engagement exercise on retirement protection launched at the end of last year. In the past three months, government officials and members have introduced the consultation document and gauged views from different sectors of society through different channels. There is an opinion that the asset limit of $80,000 in the simulated ˇ§those with financial needsˇ¨ option is too low, and the CoP agreed that it should continue to explain to the public that the asset limit of $80,000 is only a reference for financial evaluation. The CoP welcomes the public to propose alternative asset limits. In this regard, the Labour and Welfare Bureau will before the end of March provide a calculator at the dedicated website of the public engagement exercise on retirement protection to show information such as the amount of increased expenditure and the number of beneficiaries if the asset limit is relaxed to different levels under the simulated ˇ§those with financial needsˇ¨ option.

     The consultation period will end in June. In the remainder of the consultation period, members and relevant government officials will continue to attend public forums and meet with different stakeholders to listen to public views, in order to facilitate the building of public consensus on retirement protection. At the meeting, Mr Lau Ming-wai, a CoP member and also vice chairman of the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre, briefed the CoP on the Foundationˇ¦s study report on retirement protection, which put forth specific policy recommendations on improving Hong Kong's retirement protection system.

     The CoP also approved one new CCF assistance programme and the extension of a pilot scheme, details of which are as follows:

(1) Following up on the 2016 Policy Address initiative, the CoP endorsed, before the implementation of the free quality kindergarten education policy from the 2017/18 school year, the launch of a new assistance programme in the 2016/17 school year to provide a one-off grant for kindergarten students, in order to offer timely support for needy families to cater for school-related expenses incurred from their childrenˇ¦s kindergarten education other than school fees. The amount of allowance is determined with reference to that of the flat-rate grant under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme in the 2016/17 school year, and will be given out at full grant ($3,770), three-quarters grant ($2,828) and half grant ($1,885). The total provision of the new programme amounts to $157 million, and it is expected to benefit about 50 000 kindergarten students.

(2) The CoP endorsed extending phase one of the existing Pilot Scheme on Living Allowance for Carers of Elderly Persons from Low Income Families (Pilot Scheme) by four months to the end of September 2016, and starting phase two of the scheme in October, in order to tie in with the implementation timetable of the Pilot Scheme on Living Allowance for Carers of Persons with Disabilities as proposed in the 2016 Policy Address. This will enable the Social Welfare Department (SWD) to decide the future of the two schemes in a coherent manner in future. Under phase two of the Pilot Scheme, the number of beneficiaries will increase by 2 000 to 4 000, while the eligibility criteria and implementation arrangements will remain the same as those in phase one. A monthly allowance of $2,000 will be disbursed to an eligible carer, and a maximum of $4,000 per month will be disbursed to those carers who take care of more than one elderly person. The allowance will be granted for a maximum of 24 months. The SWD will invite applications for phase two of the scheme during the four-month extended period from June to September 2016. The carers of elderly persons in phase one who remain eligible will continue to receive the allowance during the extended period, and may apply for the allowance in phase two. The above proposal will incur an additional provision of $188.76 million, and the total commitment of the scheme will rise from $126 million to $314.76 million.

     In addition, the CoP noted the progress of the Enhancing Self-Reliance Through District Partnership Programme (ESR Programme) and how the Home Affairs Department and the District Offices (DOs) co-ordinate poverty alleviation work at the district level. The CoP also received a briefing from the District Officer (Sham Shui Po) on the experience in promoting community participation and co-ordinating poverty alleviation measures in the district. In light of the district-based approach to alleviating poverty, the Home Affairs Department launched the ESR Programme in 2006 to create job opportunities for the socially disadvantaged through subsidising the development of social enterprises. The ESR Programme has yielded promising results in poverty alleviation. As at October 1, 2015, it had subsidised 176 social enterprises with a total provision of $207 million and had directly employed more than 4,000 people, of which over 80 per cent came from socially disadvantaged groups. Under the new phase of the ESR Programme launching in 2016-17, various enhancements will be put in place, including the expansion of the scope of subsidy and the launch of a pilot scheme allowing subsidised social enterprises to distribute profits under prescribed conditions in order to attract more capable social entrepreneurs to develop social enterprises. Meanwhile, DOs will continue to promote community participation and co-ordinate poverty alleviation work through District Councils and other mechanisms at the district level based on the actual needs and circumstances of different districts.


Ends/Thursday, March 17, 2016
Issued at HKT 20:47


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