Take good care of the underprivileged while combating CSSA fraud cases
A newly arrived woman was charged with defrauding HK$330,000 from the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance(CSSA) scheme of the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department. The woman, who is married to a mentally handicapped man in Hong Kong, was found failing to declare an asset of HK$860,000 that she held on behalf of her mother-in-law. The judge in giving the sentence last month said that the defendant had technically defrauded money from the CSSA scheme even though she had not spent a single cent of the asset she kept for her mother-in-law. She was sentenced to an imprisonment of 18 months but given three years* probation. The judge had questioned the rationale behind the move by the Social Welfare Department in withholding her daughter's disability allowance as reimbursement during the time when the defendant was being suspected of fraud. The judge also criticized the department's suspension of CSSA payment and disability allowance to the defendant from April 2008 to January 2010.
It is definitely indisputable that abusing CSSA and thus increasing the burden of social welfare is a serious crime. Nevertheless, the defendant in this case is a typical example of the most underprivileged people and her situation deserves sympathy. Her defrauding money from the CSSA scheme constituted an offence merely in technical terms. However, the Social Welfare Department used a cold and bureaucratic manner in dealing with the case. They made a judgment even before the trial and administered a series of punishments involving the entire family. The Social Welfare Department has to now seriously review their mentality and mechanism in verifying and approving CSSA applications. They should make sure that social welfare assistance is given to the neediest underprivileged people while effectively cracking down on CSSA fraud and misappropriation of precious public funds.
The greatest controversy in this case is that the Social Welfare Department withheld CSSA and other allowances payable to the whole family before the court made a verdict. The defendant had to repay part of the swindled sum by forfeiting her daughter's disability allowance. This not only cut the 烞ource of income* of the entire family but also for some time adversely affected the daughter's education and daily life. This approach of 烢unishing the whole family for the fault of a member* adopted by the Social Welfare Department was denounced by both the judge and also the public as a 涄old-hearted* move that showed no sympathy for the hardship of the common people and had no regard for the subsistence of the underprivileged. ■Translation by 東明 firstname.lastname@example.org