Fri, Nov 28, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Poor children are being helped: MOI

WELFARE NET Stung by criticism that needy children are not receiving appropriate support, officials pointed to the benefits available and blamed local governments

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Some children do slip through the welfare net for low-income families, but the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) says there are a variety of programs that provide financial, education and medical assistance to poor children.

Ministry officials outlined the benefits available to such children yesterday in response to newspaper reports that a child is born to an impoverished family every 90 minutes in Taiwan.

"Various local governments provide financial and medical assistance to low-income households with children," said Huang Bi-hsia (黃碧霞), the head of the ministry's Children's Bureau.

According to Huang, low-income families with children under the age of three are eligible to receive daycare tuition aid of NT$1,500 per month per child.

"In addition, we provide free health care for all children under the age of three as one component of the National Health Insurance program. Between last year and this year, various local governments spent a total of NT$500 million on medical aid for children in low-income families," Huang said.

However, to date, there are still 10,000 children under the age of three who have not registered with the Bureau of National Health Insurance.

"We have already urged various local governments to inform the parents of these children about the availability of this free health care for children," said Vice Minister of the Interior Hsu Ing-shen (許應深).

Huang also said that educational coupons of NT$10,000 per school year per child are also available to families with low incomes.

"In addition, single-parent families or dysfunctional families who have special child-related needs are able to receive assistance, such as counseling and tutoring, from social workers or civic welfare foundations," Huang said.

The interior ministry has worked with the Ministry of Education to devise a "children in low and middle-to-low-income families tuition aid project" that is expected to pass into law next year.

"If this draft is passed, the government is expected to set aside a budget of NT$190 million through which each child under six in a low-income family will be able to receive daycare or kindergarten tuition aid of up to NT$6,000 per child per semester," Huang said.

According to the interior ministry's Department of Social Affairs, the determination of whether a family is low-income or not is based on the poverty line where the family lives.

"For instance, in Taipei, if the total income of a household is under NT$13,333 per month, this household is considered to be low-income," said Tseng Chung-ming (曾中明), deputy head of the Department of Social Affairs.

"Of course, the figure differs from area to area," he said.

"Children are the masters of the future. Please be assured that the government will do its best to take care of them," Hsu said.

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