China / Society

Parents who lost only child receive greater support

By Li Yao (China Daily) Updated: 2012-11-28 00:54

Cities across China are providing greater financial aid to senior citizens who have lost their only child.

Demographers estimate there are 10 million households that lost their only child in China.

According to a draft regulation by Futian district government in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, parents aged 49 or older whose offspring have died, will be entitled to 750 yuan ($120) a month.

People will not be eligible if they gave birth to, or adopted, another child.

The district solicited public opinion on the draft from Nov 23 to 26.

When the policy comes into effect on Jan 1, the health and population and family planning bureaus of Futian district will oversee the funds.

Since Oct 1, Shaanxi province has given one-off 20,000 yuan to each rural family that has lost the only child and 30,000 yuan to each urban family. In addition, the monthly allowance per person has been raised from 140 to 800 yuan in rural areas and 1,000 yuan in urban areas.

In the Haishu district of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, a two-year program commenced in January, aimed at providing greater support to these families.

A parent, aged 49 or older receives 1,800 yuan a year. Some social groups are paid between 2,000 and 10,000 yuan for their outstanding services. Communities that take care of these elderly people's funerals, receive 10,000 yuan in subsidies.

The policy has benefited 218 people from 139 such families, said Li Yiping, secretary-general of the family planning association in the Haishu district, at a work meeting on Nov 23.

The China Family Planning Association provides funds to 14 provinces to run pilot programs that encourage government purchase of services from social groups.

With 200,000 yuan allocated from the association, Anhui province began working with the Ailin social work organization in Hefei, the provincial capital.

The four-month partnership runs from September to December, serving seniors aged 60 and older from 106 households who have lost their only child.

"The government needs to rely on social groups' outreach to communities and volunteers. They can provide everyday services, such as health checkups or haircuts," said Zhang Gaoqiu, an official from the Family Planning Association in Anhui.

When the program ends this year, Zhang's office will try to extend it and apply for further funds from the China Family Planning Association.

In Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, such families are also struggling with limited financial help and despairing about getting older and frailer, said Li Minglan, 58, the founder of Heart-to-Heart Family Association, a mutual support group.

Li's only son died from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 21 in 1999. She suffered from severe depression and had to be hospitalized. She found consolation through helping others who had similar experiences to rebuild a life.

There are more than 5,000 such families in Wuhan, and the group receives new members every month. Li has heard too many stories that involve impoverished parents who, after losing their only child, develop terminal diseases and cannot afford to go to the hospital.

Zhang Taomei, 51, lost her only son in 2003.

Zhang's thyroid cancer has relapsed, and her husband had a stroke and went blind some years ago.

Nursing homes refuse to accept her husband, because they have no custodian to sign the papers, Li said.

Healthcare and old-age support are the biggest concerns for these families.

Even for Li, who runs a multimillion yuan business providing repair services and spare parts for steel companies, is deeply worried that no one will take care of her and her husband when they get older.

"I hope there will be some organizations that keep an eye on us. In case we need a nurse, they can make the arrangements," she said.

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