LCQ17: Low-income Working Family Allowance Scheme
The Government launched the Low-income Working Family Allowance Scheme (LIFA Scheme) in May this year, with a view to relieving the financial burden of working poor families. Applicants may apply for allowances for periods (from November 2015 onwards) each covering six calendar months in the past. If any member of a recipient family is away from Hong Kong (other than for paid work) for more than 30 days within a claim period (limit on period of absence from Hong Kong), the family will be granted LIFA only in respect of the months in which no member is away from Hong Kong for more than five days. Some members of the public have relayed to me that the limit on period of absence from Hong Kong under the LIFA Scheme is overly stringent, and they hope that the authorities will relax the time limit. The Government announced yesterday the abolishment of the limit on period of absence from Hong Kong with immediate effect. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) in respect of those families (i) which have applied for LIFA, (ii) which have been granted LIFA and (iii) which were denied LIFA or whose LIFA have been reduced due to the aforesaid time limit, of the respective average numbers of days of absence from Hong Kong per person within each claim period in respect of those family members belonging to the age groups listed in the table below (set out in the table below);
|0 to under 3|
|3 to under 6|
|6 to under 12|
|12 to 18|
|60 to under 65|
|65 or above|
(2) of the authorities' justifications for setting the limit on period of absence from Hong Kong at the current level; whether they compiled statistics or conducted studies in the past three years regarding the patterns of members of low-income working families being absent from Hong Kong; if so, of the outcome; and
(3) whether it has assessed if the limit on period of absence from Hong Kong under the LIFA Scheme is more stringent than that under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (under which recipients must not be away from Hong Kong for more than 60 days in any payment year); if it has assessed and the outcome is in the affirmative, of the reasons for that?
My consolidated reply to the questions raised by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung is as follows:
The Low-income Working Family Allowance (LIFA) Scheme was implemented on May 3, 2016. As at November 18, 2016, the Working Family Allowance Office of the Working Family and Student Financial Assistance Agency received over 37 000 applications. So far, a total of 27 957 applications were approved, 2 945 applications not approved, 1 722 applications withdrawn and over 5 000 applications being processed.
The breakdown by (i) families applying for LIFA； (ii) families whose applications have been approved for all claim months; and (iii) families whose applications were not approved in part or entirely because of the absence rule is as follows:
|Age Group||Average number of days of absence of family members in each claim period|
|0 to under 3||85||17||81|
|3 to under 6||46||12||57|
|6 to under 12||34||10||48|
|12 to 18||52||10||51|
|60 to under 65||29||9||64|
|65 or above||44||11||67|
Note 1: The information in Column (i) is compiled on the basis of the information provided by the applicants in the application forms and is yet to be vetted. In processing their applications, the Working Family Allowance Office will vet the information and verify it against the information from the Immigration Department.
Note 2: For each application with family members absent from Hong Kong, the family member with the greatest number of days of absence is taken and reflected in the concerned age group. If there are two or more family members with the same number of days of absence in an application, the absence of the eldest family member will be counted.
Note 3: The applications involved in Column (iii) constitute a small number (around 500) of the applications processed.
We have not compiled or conducted any studies regarding the patterns of members of low-income working families being absent from Hong Kong.
Having regard to the policy objectives of the LIFA Scheme to support working poor households, encourage self-reliance through employment and ease intergenerational poverty, the Chief Executive in Council has decided on December 6, 2016 to abolish the absence rule and a public announcement was made on the same day. The abolition of the absence rule applies to applications received (or post-stamped) on or after December 6, 2016.
Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:49
Issued at HKT 12:49