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Following is a question by Hon Abraham Shek and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (July 10):
A study report released by the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) in January 2013 indicated that in 2011, Hong Kong children from families in the top 10% income bracket were more likely (3.7 times) to receive university education than those from families earning half of the median household income or less. To reduce inter-generational poverty, the Child Development Fund (CDF) was set up in 2008 which aims at promoting the longer-term development of children from a disadvantaged background through collaboration of the family, the private sector, the community and the Government. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the number of children living in families earning half of the median household income or less in each of the past six years; whether the Government will encourage more children to take part in CDF projects, which have only benefited about 4 000 children, such as by expanding the age range of targeted participants; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) as a paper submitted by the Labour and Welfare Bureau to this Council indicates that “among the 728 and 1 464 participants of the first and second batch participating children, respectively 721 (99.0%) and 1 441 (98.4%) successfully completed the two-year targeted savings programme [of CDF]”, whether the Government will extend the programme’s reach and make the programme a recurrent policy measure with matching contributions provided by the Government; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(c) whether the Government has assessed the progress made by CDF towards achieving its stated objectives; if the assessment outcome is in the affirmative, whether such an outcome explains why the Steering Committee of CDF met much less frequently in 2011 and 2012 (once a year) than in previous years (thrice a year); given the result of the study by HKIEd, whether the Government will take further action to help CDF achieve its objective of reducing inter-generational poverty, especially in relation to increasing the chance of children in poverty to receive university education; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(d) whether the Government will consider setting up a committee with representatives from relevant policy bureaux, including the Education Bureau and the Labour and Welfare Bureau, to study the problem of inter-generational poverty and come up with alleviation measures; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to Hon Abraham Shek Lai-him’s question is as follows:
(a) According to the results of the General Household Survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department, the number of persons aged below 18 living in domestic households with monthly household income less than half of the median monthly domestic household income of the corresponding household size from 2007 to 2012 is as follows:
Year 2007* 2008* 2009* 2010* 2011 2012
—- —– —– —– —– —- —-
No. of 292.5 295.9 277.7 265.8 260.4 260.8
Note: * Figures presented in the above table are statistics which involve the use of the population figures in the compilation process. They have been revised to take into account the results of the 2011 Population Census which provided a benchmark for revising the population figures compiled since the 2006 Population By-census.
The Child Development Fund (CDF) was set up in April 2008. It funds projects which promote the longer-term development of children from a disadvantaged background and encourage them to develop an asset-building habit with a view to reducing inter-generational poverty. With funding from CDF and the assistance of volunteer mentors, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) organise specially designed three-year projects for the participants, teaching them how to formulate personal development plans (PDPs) and implement them using their own savings, matching donations and Government’s special financial incentive.
In early 2008 before CDF was set up, we discussed with the Legislative Council Panel on Welfare Services details of the CDF projects. Our original proposal was to set the age of beneficiaries at 12-16. Noting Members’ view then that younger children should also be covered in CDF projects, we lowered the age requirement to 10-16. The beneficiaries should also come from families which are receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance or full grant under the student finance schemes administered by the Student Financial Assistance Agency, or whose household income is less than 75% of the median monthly domestic household income. We do not propose to further lower the age requirement to below 10 at this stage, because these children may be too young to develop and implement their own PDPs. However, the Administration will encourage more children to participate in CDF projects and are taking forward the measures set out in (b) below to increase the number of beneficiaries.
(b) The implementation of CDF projects has been the joint efforts of NGOs, the community and the Government. NGOs operate the projects and provide training and guidance to the participating children and mentors. This includes guiding the participating children to make targeted savings (generally $200 per month for 24 months). The community (including the business sector) has been contributing with mentor participation and matching donations (generally $200 per month for 24 months). The Administration offers a special financial incentive ($3,000) for those children who have completed their targeted savings programme. It also provides financial provision to the operating NGOs to support the training and administrative costs of the projects. We consider such arrangements appropriate and effective.
We have been launching CDF projects by batches. So far, three batches of 40 projects have been rolled out, benefiting over 4 000 children. We intend to award the fourth batch of 20 new projects in the third quarter of this year, benefiting another 2 000 – 2 300 children from disadvantaged background.
Furthermore, the Steering Committee on CDF (SCCDF) is exploring the experiment of school-based approach in operating CDF projects with a view to increasing the number of beneficiaries.
CDF has sufficient resource to support the above measures. If additional funding for operating CDF projects is required, it will be sought through the established mechanism at an appropriate time.
(c) We have commissioned the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (the Consultant) to conduct a longitudinal study to evaluate the first batch projects, and the study was completed in end-2012. The Consultant has reaffirmed the contribution of the three key components (i.e. PDP, mentorship programme and targeted savings) to the objectives of CDF. It is of the view that CDF has helped create favourable conditions for participating children to overcome inter-generational poverty. With PDP, participating children have been induced to conduct longer-term planning for their future development. They have higher expectation on their academic performance, have less delinquent behaviour and have exhibited better time management. The mentorship programme has enlarged participating children’s social network by giving them exposure to environment and opportunities not provided by their own families. The process of accumulating savings and implementing PDP has prepared participating children for their future personal and career development.
CDF projects encourage participants to implement their PDPs. Operating NGOs’ experience shows that while many CDF participating children aspire to receive university education, some of their PDPs are related to other education and vocational training (e.g. in the areas of language, information technology, catering, beauty/hair styling, tourism and graphic design), skill enhancement (e.g. receiving sports training and attending computer courses), and/or cultivating a personal interest in music or art, etc.
Taking into account the Consultant’s recommendations, comments made by the SCCDF members, and practical experience gained in implementing the first three batches of CDF projects, we are taking forward a number of enhancement measures for CDF projects. As we briefed Members of the Legislative Council Panel on Welfare Services on April 16, 2013, these include increasing the training provision and administrative fee provided to the operating NGOs, etc. These measures will better empower NGOs in operating CDF projects and hence achieve the objectives of CDF.
The SCCDF will hold meetings as and when necessary. It has already held two meetings so far within the first seven months in 2013. SCCDF has also set up a task force to explore the experiment of school-based approach mentioned in (b) above.
(d) The Commission on Poverty was re-instated in December last year. It is underpinned by six task forces. One of the main areas of work of the Commission and its task forces is on reducing inter-generational poverty and promoting the upward social mobility of grassroot children and young people so as to achieve the objectives of alleviating and preventing poverty. For instance, the Education, Employment and Training Task Force has examined the current student finance assistance schemes for students attending primary and secondary schools and receiving tertiary education to ensure that no student is denied access to education owing to lack of financial means. In addition, the Community Care Fund is also taking forward various assistance programmes for students from low-income families. These include subsidising primary and secondary school students from these families to participate in cross-boundary learning activities and competitions.
Representatives of the Labour and Welfare Bureau and the Education Bureau are already participating in the work of the Commission and the relevant task forces. The Administration does not consider it necessary to set up another cross-bureau committee to come up with poverty alleviating measures.