BEIJING, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has signed a decree to issue a regulation on social assistance that calls for open, fair and timely aid for the needy.
The regulation, which will come into effect on May 1, is the country's first legal document to coordinate and regulate a fragmentary social assistance system. It says social assistance work should be in proportion with the country's economic and social development level.
The rules detail a minimum level of living standards, support for extremely poor people, assistance for people affected by disasters, medical assistance, and help in areas including education, housing and employment.
"The absence of a basic assistance system will result in people living in crisis, and social assistance guards the bottom line of a society," said Zheng Gongcheng, a professor with Renmin University of China.
Needy people refers to handicapped people, the elderly and minors who are not able to work and have no legal guardians or income.
According to the regulation, civil affairs authorities under the State Council, or China's cabinet, are responsible for coordinating the overall assistance efforts, and departments in education, health, housing and elsewhere should fulfil their assistance duty in their respective fields.
The rules require governments at or above the county level to incorporate social assistance into their economic and social plans, and materials and funds for the cause should be secured.
According to Zheng, the regulation marks China's social assistance system becoming more mature and steady, and helps ensure the dignity and basic right to live for needy people.
The regulation bans any group or individual from misappropriating social assistance fund.
Private groups are encouraged to participate in social assistance services with favorable policies in subsidies and taxation, it says.
According to the rules, people applying for or receiving assistance should declare their income and property status truthfully for verification by local governments.
Guan Xinping, a professor on social policy with Nankai University, warned of "lazy slobs" taking advantage of social assistance, hailing measures to guarantee that aid is given to the rightful persons.
The draft stipulates a supervision system for social assistance and punishment for duty derelictions in providing social assistance, fraud and other violations. Swindlers will be fined up to three times the worth of materials and funds they have received.