Refugee child denied standard level of assistance

Post Date: Jan 6th, 2015 | Categories: Food, Housing, Welfare | COMMENT

A few days ago Vision First wrote to the Child Protection institute querying if they had taken into consideration refugee children when writing to the SCMP saying the government is doing all it can to prevent destitution. Apparently, if the government is, its contractors are not.

Vision First reported to the Social Welfare Department the reprehensible treatment of a refugee child who has been allegedly denied rent, utility and adequate food assistance for reasons unexplainable. The boy, Samuel, was born in 2013 to a Pakistani father and Indonesian mother.

Samuel was issued with an Immigration Recognizance Form in August 2013, after which the parents requested he be added to their Agreement on Provision of Assistance. However, the mother laments, “Our caseworker refused to add our boy, because she said it was not necessary and we already got enough help.”

For reasons that remain unclear, young Samuel was not recognized by SWD contractor ISSHK as a ‘service user’ entitled to standard levels of assistance for rent, utilities and food, as determined by the Hong Kong Government. Raising a family is expensive and refugee parents are denied the right to work.

At the core of the matter was the parents’ request to change their lodging because the room in which they lived had become too small for a unit of three. They therefore located what they thought could be a suitable room priced at 4500$. However, since August 2013 the family was told by their ISSHK case-worker that the small room they occupied was sufficient and it was unnecessary for them to relocate. The caseworker (name withheld) refused to pay the security deposit and first month rent.

The family reports that ISS-HK also did not increase the electricity allowance and failed to provide sufficient food for Samuel. In recent months, the two year-old boy was allocated one box of cereal, one can of milk formula (900gr) and 10 eggs for a 10 day period. The mother, who could not breastfeed, laments that her son would finish the formula in 5 days as he didn’t have solid food.

The distress mother complained to Vision First, “This is too much painful. Why they can treat us like that?”

Good question! From our experience, it is claimed that each case is different and a case-by-case assessment is implemented, as if this was reason sufficient to dispel complaints concerning some receiving more and others less than what is said not to exist, but is factually a “Refugee Welfare Package”. In this light, Vision First is greatly concerned about what seems to be an arbitrary, biased treatment, particularly because the family claims they were told “the manager did not agree” as an explanation of service refusal.

Vision First calls on the SWD to promptly investigate this case and explain to this family, and the community in general, what guidelines are in place in this cases, why ISS-HK decided that this family should not move to a larger room after having a baby, why their utility allowance should not be increased and why Samuel was punished with a reduced food allowance at a critical stage of growth and development. 

Child discriminated against by ISS-HK