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HKFWC's Responses to Budget 2019-20

2019-20 Budget was just released this morning (27th February 2019). The HKFWC is disappointed in the lack of support for carers in the public in terms of the allocation of public finances.

 

Besides, we deem that the childcare service still has room for improvement. More specific service is required for divorced families. We also urge the government to pay more attention to the gender inequality of development opportunities in allocating public finances.

 

Urging the Carer's Support

We have seen multiple incidents of carers committing suicide out of stress, which raised concern among carers' plights in society. At the beginning of this year, we have handed in a joint signature to the Financial Secretary, which was signed by 72 organizations in three days. They urged the government to enact carer-oriented policies and increase community support.  Currently, the government is categorizing cases with their existing services rigidly and neglecting the unique needs of carers. The budget plan today did not mention anything carer-oriented.

 

The provision of community care service is woefully inadequate. The caring responsibility is shifted to the family and the market, and the rights of carers are neglected. For example, the Pilot Scheme on Living Allowance for Carers of Elderly Persons from Low-income Families has very strict application eligibility and adheres to the principle of saving resources. Applicants are required to choose between daytime service and home service and are forbidden to receive this allowance along with the Old Age Living Allowance.

 

Therefore, the HKFWC suggests enacting a comprehensive carer support policy, setting up subsidy for carers, providing social support services such as emergency childcare, and offering respite care and support services to carers at their home. This can acknowledge the contributions of carers to the families and society by resources allocation.

 

Improving the Supply of Childcare Services

In light of the inadequate childcare services, the HKFWC welcomes the government to increase the number of social workers and support staff in mutual help childcare centres. We hope that the policy can better respond to the needs of families and childcarers in need. We are also glad to see that the budget plan has increased the number of participants for the Neighbourhood Support childcare Project and enhanced relevant training. Nevertheless, currently, the project lacks training standards, which causes the community nannies to vary in quality. Thus, the HKFWC advocates developing community childcare services, providing professional training to nannies, setting up a directory for nannies, providing pertinent and flexible childcare service to family carers. This can not only create job opportunities for women but can also ease their dual burdens of family and employment.

 

Meeting the Needs of Divorcees

The divorce rate in Hong Kong has been rising. To meet the needs of divorcees and their children, the budget has allocated resources to set up four specialized co-parenting support centres. We believe these centres should provide one-stop services to comprehensively support the needs of families who have divorced or will divorce. These support services should be provided before, during and after divorce. Pre-divorce services include marriage and parent-child counselling. Services during divorce should include counselling and emotional support, legal support (including dealing with probationary maintenance order), parental reconciliation, benefits (including financial and housing), and children emotional support. Post-divorce services should include counselling and emotional support, parental education, visitation, legal support (including dealing with alimony in arrears), and children emotional support. Meanwhile, the government should also provide assistance, crisis evaluation, and follow-up counselling to those affected by domestic violence.

 

One of the main reasons behind the serious poverty problem of single parents is that it is very hard to collect alimony in arrears. Thus, we suggest setting up a specialized department for collecting and distributing alimony, instead of having the payee to collect and chase the fund. This can simplify the process and avoid having the payee to run between the court and the social welfare department while dealing with financial difficulties. We suggest that the department should also include functions such as demanding and collecting alimony on half of the family as well as educating the public. They should also have the power to coordinate different departments so as to maximize their effectiveness.

 

Suggestions

We believe that the current government has an adequate fiscal reserve with robust gains. The government possesses the power to increase its constant spending and implement the following measures to improve the long-term living conditions of grassroots women:

  • Include gender-responsive budgeting when preparing for the Budget to ensure fairer resource allocation and development opportunities between men and women
  • Set up a universal retirement protection system to protect all citizens, especially women with low-income and unpaid domestic workers
  • Enact a carer-oriented to enhance community support, lower the threshold for carer subsidy, ease the economic and mental stress of those who have to take care of their families and cannot go to work
  • Professionalize community nannies, employ women who have received such training in the community to provide support services to families in need and provide carers with the space to rest and develop their careers
  • Comprehensive improvement of divorce support service through the establishment of a specialized department

Media Enquiry

Ms Si-si Liu

Director

sisi.liu@womencentre.org.hk
(852) 2748 8101

Ms Fishing Tsoi

Advocacy Officer

sm.tsoi@womencentre.org.hk
(852) 2748 8106