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Civil Service Center for Needy

Shanghai is to establish a civil affairs service center so that needy people can apply for subsidies and other help, Ma Yili, director of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, said on Thursday.

Ma said applying for subsidies at present requires many certificates and it is a complicated process that has confused many people.

"I once talked with some people who have economic difficulties, and their first thought of solving their problems was to turn to their relatives and friends rather than turning to the government," said Ma.

She said the new center will be small but multifunctional.

"For example, the center will be able to apply for certificates for people. Applicants can call the center for help, and officials can go to their homes to deliver the material," she said.

To ensure subsidies are given to those who most need them, the bureau will also promote a system to estimate residents' incomes.

"We once came across someone who drove a Benz or BMW but applied for economic subsidies," Ma said.

After the system was tried out last year, bureau officials found that 16 percent of the cases were questionable.

"When we found problems, we didn't simply reject the applicants, but told them to verify once again the information in the material they provided." Ma said.

"Unfortunately, 90 percent of the questioned applicants gave up automatically."

"The system saved about 100 million yuan (US$14 million). The fund might have been giving money to people who didn't need it at all," she said.

Ma also said on Thursday that 80 percent of the beds in rest homes for seniors were occupied by people who had the ability to take care of themselves, while those in need of special care often were not able to find a bed.

"Over the next few years, we'll try to adjust the function of the rest homes and let more people who truly need to be there find a place in them," the bureau director said.

Heads of the city's 12 government departments have begun a 12-day live media talk show to discuss topics of interest to ordinary locals.

Shanghai Daily reporters will follow the series featuring the department directors who will take questions from members of the community.

The program is broadcast live via radio and the Internet from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM every day until April 18. Locals can log onto to submit questions or topics to be discussed on the program.

(Shanghai Daily April 18, 2008)

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