LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2016/95-96
[These minutes have been seen by the Administration]
LegCo Panel on Welfare Services
Minutes of Meeting
held on Thursday, 6 June 1996 at 8:30 a.m.
in the Legislative Council Chamber
Members Present :
Hon LI Wah-ming (Chairman)
Hon David CHU Yu-lin (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Dr Hon LAW Chi-kwong
Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Members Attending :
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Members Absent :
Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip *
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong *
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong *
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum *
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP *
Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee *
Hon LEE Kai-ming *
Public Officers Attending :
- For Item I
- Home Affairs Branch
- Mr Carlson K S CHAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
- Mrs June SHERRY
- Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Youth & Rehabilitation) (Acting)
- For Item II
- Health and Welfare Branch
- Mr R C WILSON, JP
- Deputy Secretary
- Mr Y C CHENG
- Principal Assistant Secretary
By Invitation :
- Concern Group on the Future of Community Development Service
- Mr WA Wai-yiu
- Ms LEUNG Lai-mui
- Ms YEUNG Sing
- Mr Eric WONG Kwok-ho
- Ms HO Kit-yin
Staff in Attendance :
- Mr LAW Kam-sang
- Deputy Secretary General
- Miss Eva LIU
- Head (Research and and Library Services)
- Miss Vicky LEE
- Research Officer 3
- Miss YUE Sin-yui
- Research Officer 2
- Ms Doris CHAN
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2)4
- Mr Alfred CHAU
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2)4
I. Neighbourhood Level Community Development Projects (NLCDP)
Meeting with deputation from the Concern Group on the Future of Community Development Service (CGFCDS).
The first representative, Ms HO Kit-yin, described the poor living conditions of the squatter houses in rural areas and quoted Tin Ping Shan Tsuen as an example. There was no mail delivery service, no street lamps, no public toilets, and no social services at all. She continued to highlight the advantages of having social workers and their services and queried the Administration as to why NLCDP could not be extended to those rural areas where the three criteria for having NLCDP were met. Furthermore, she requested members of the Panel and the Administration to arrange a site visit to see it for themselves, and asked the Administration to provide NLCDP speedily to those rural areas.
2. Mr WA Wai-yiu, a representative of old urban areas, pointed out that social problems existed in these areas such as bed-space apartments, with very unsatisfactory conditions. He also blamed the Administration for refusing to provide social services to them. He further stated that there was a genuine need for NLCDP services in old urban areas, particularly for those living under footbridges. He urged the Administration to allocate more resources for solving their social problems.
3. Mr Eric WONG Kwok-ho, pointed out that interim housing (IH) referred to permanent structures for temporary residence. IH aimed mainly at providing lodging for low income people and new immigrants from China, and the Housing Authority treated those people in IH the same way as they treated people in Temporary Housing Areas (THA). Therefore, Mr WONG opined that IH was just another name for THA and argued that as NLCDP was provided to THA, the service should be extended to IH as well. He did not agree with the responses from the Administration that there were sufficient social services for IH. Mr WONG requested that NLCDP should be provided to IH for IH met all the criteria for NLCDP which included (a) a community of about 3,000 to 15,000; (b) no plans for relocation in 3 years, and (c) people in the low income bracket. Furthermore, Mr WONG invited members of the Panel to visit IH sites and to reflect their views to the Administration.
4. Ms LEUNG Lai-mui said that she was very concerned about the recent development of NLCDP by quoting two examples. The NLCDP for 4 out of 5 blocks of Tai Hang Tung Estate (population of about 2000, 80% of which were elderly people from families of one to two members), was taken over by the Fat Cheung Street Team. It was a long distance for social workers travelling between the two districts. Ms LEUNG understood that in previous practices a NLCDP team to be disbanded would get its replacement on a priority basis, and the team in Pak Tin was scheduled to be disbanded in August 1997. She queried why the team in Pak Tin was not given a replacement in Tai Hang Tung Estate as the team was close to Tai Hang Tung Estate and needed a replacement. Another example was about Blocks 1, 3, 8, 9 in Shek Lei Estate of approximately 10,000 people. According to their calculations, it needed 2 NLCDP teams for those 4 Blocks. However, HAB did not endorse the suggestion of Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) to allow two existing NLCDP teams to service those 4 Blocks. Ms LEUNG requested the Administration to explain the rationale of disbanding NLCDP teams at the expense of the benefits and quality of social service of the residents in Shek Lei Estate.
5. Ms YEUNG Sing recommended that more NLCDP teams should be established to meet the needs of the communities such as organising social services for residents. Ms YEUNG raised her concerns about the recent changes in the Administrations practice which would end up compelling existing NLCDP teams to take up other social services.
Meeting with the Administration
6. Referring to Paragraph 8 of the paper (Appendix II of LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1471/95-96), Mr Zachary WONG Wai-yin said that he understood that a decision was made among Housing Department, Social Welfare Department (SWD) and Home Affairs Branch (HAB) rejecting the provision of NLCDP services to IH, and asked the Administration when the discussions were held and when a decision was made. In response, Mr Carlson K S CHAN said that the concerned branches and departments had been discussing the matter for the past few months through internal correspondence. He agreed to let Members know the exact dates on which the aforesaid decision had been made.
7. Mr WONG pointed out that during the Yuen Long District Board meeting on 13 May 1996, representatives of Housing Department told the Board that IH would be established in Long Bin. Upon asking whether NLCDP would be provided to Long Bin, Mr WONG got the confirmation from a District Social Welfare Officer that NLCDP would be available as the criteria for NLCDP were met and there was no welfare services nearby. To his surprise, Mr WONG found that a decision withholding NLCDP services to IHs was made by internal correspondence and it seemed to him that only a few officers knew about it. Mr WONG asked the Administration to indicate to what levels the decision was conveyed and whether Long Bin was eligible for NLCDP services since Long Bin was totally segregated from the communities nearby.
8. Mr CHAN said that according to HD, the THAs at Long Bin were of traditional timber structures and there was no firm plan to build IH at the same site. Mr CHAN further stated that most IHs would be transformed from old housing estates, such as Kwai Shing East Block 12, which were well served by ample welfare facilities in close proximity. Concerning the extension of NLCDP services, a site visit would be arranged on 4 July 1996 to IH sites. Mr CHAN added that ExCo had decided that pending the review of the two pilot projects in old urban areas, those NLCDP teams which required reprovisioning should be offered a choice of redeployment to other welfare programmes or continuing to provide NLCDP services to PHEs undergoing redevelopment or THAs qualified under existing criteria. In taking a view on the provision of NLCDP services to IH, one had to bear in mind ExCos decision. The Chairman challenged Mr CHANs argument by pointing out that when ExCo made such a decision, IH did not exist. He recommended that a flexible approach should be adopted to dealt with the issue.
9. Upon the request of the Chairman, Mrs Sherry agreed to check with her colleagues who had attended the Yuen Long District Board Meeting on 13 May 1996 regarding provision of NLCDP service to Long Bin and to provide a written reply to the Panel.
10. Miss CHAN Yuen-han did not agree with ExCos decision on NLCDP services and asked the Administration to elaborate on the plans regarding the liaison of NLCDP workers in those areas where there was a need for such services, such as Tai Hang Tung and Wong Tai Sin. Upon the clearance of THAs at Diamond Hill, some social workers were deployed to Sham Shui Po and had to suffer long distance travelling. Miss CHAN enquired what the Administration planned to do to alleviate the situation.
11. Mr CHAN said that it had been established practice to reprovision NLCDP teams affected by clearance to other service areas. Such reprovisioning arrangements were made in consultation with the Committee on NLCDPs, which comprised representatives of the welfare sector, and were agreed by the affected teams. Regarding the case of Tai Hang Tung Estate, Mr CHAN explained that the NLCDP team at Pak Tin Estate would be affected by the clearance project of HD next year. The proposed arrangement of a take-over by the Fat Cheung Street Team, which did not have a firm clearance date yet, reflected a better allocation of existing resources. As to the NLCDP Team at Pak Tin Estate, Mr CHAN said that options were available to the team to continue to provide NLCDP services or other social services. As regards liaison with the Concern Group, Mr CHAN revealed that there had been meetings between HAB and the Concern Group, and the last one was held a week ago. Similar meetings with the welfare sector were held through the Committee on NLCDPs which comprised representatives from HKCSS.
12. The Chairman urged the Administration to listen to the views of different parties. He doubted the Administrations interpretation of the ExCos decision on no NLCDP for IH since that it was not in place when the decision was made by the ExCo.
13. Commenting on provision of NLCDP to IH, Dr LAW Chi-kwong opined that though IH was temporary and transitional in nature, social services should be provided. In addition, he observed that NLCDP had already been extended to rural areas, and offered his interpretation of ExCos decision as maintaining the existing number of NLCDP teams. He then suggested to the Panel to urge the Administration to keep the number of existing NLCDP teams until further review. Regarding the Review Committee for pilot projects in old urban areas, Dr LAW urged the Administration to establish the committee as soon as possible, and suggested that members should include clients, front-line social workers, representatives from academic institutions, NGOs, HKCSS, and members of the Panel.
14. On the provision of NLCDP services to rural areas, Mr CHAN stressed that the Administration had not misled the Panel. He confirmed that in the three submissions to ExCo, the Administration had not advised ExCo that all existing rural areas having NLCDP services were squatter areas on private land. The Administration was not in a position to guarantee that the existing number of NLCDP teams could be maintained in view of ExCos decision that the NLCDP teams which require reprovisioning should be offered a choice to continue to provide NLCDP services subject to new areas available or other welfare programmes pending the review of pilot projects in old urban areas. The availability of new areas such as THAs and PHEs under redevelopment programmes was beyond the control of the Administration. For THAs, the Committee on NLCDPs recommended that the six THAs previously without NLCDP services should be served by existing teams. Concerning the composition of the Review Committee for pilot projects in old urban areas, he welcomed suggestions from Members as details had yet to be finalised.
15. Dr LAW argued that as both papers of the ExCo and their decision were not available, further understanding of the details was not possible. He was not sure whether the decision on NLCDP teams was confined to THAs and PHEs under redevelopment programmes. Dr LAW suspected that the information provided by the Administration was misleading and regarding the Review Committee, he suggested that a list of its membership be submitted to the Panel as soon as possible, preferably by the next meeting.
16. The Chairman emphasized that the NLCDP services aimed at the people irrespective of the type of structure they were housed in, and queried why people in IH who met the criteria of NLCDP were denied the service. Furthermore, the Chairman understood that in THAs, there were NLCDP services in additional to other social services including centres for elderly people, nurseries, and so on, and wondered why the Administration rejected provision of NLCDP to IHs on the ground that other social services were available. The background of people in IH were very similar to those in THAs, both groups being transit in nature and living in temporary structures awaiting allocation of public housing. The Chairman found it unacceptable to have no NLCDP service for people in IH. As regards the Review Committee, the Chairman urged the Administration to include one member of the Panel in the committee and to keep the Panel informed of its term of reference, its progress and other details in writing as soon as possible.
17. In response, Mr CHAN said that the review would commence in early 1997 as decided by ExCo. He would keep the Panel informed of the progress. On IH, according to the Housing Department, the selection of locations for IH would mainly be old public housing estates with adequate social services. There was one block of IH in Kwai Shing East Estate (Block 12) and the one in Shek Lei Estate was not finalized yet. The Administration explained the rationale behind the phasing out of NLCDP services by stating that considerable amount of money (4 billion in 1995 as compared with 10 million in 1975) was poured in the development of social services in Hong Kong in the last 20 years. The overall social services in Hong Kong and the living conditions in rural areas had improved significantly.
18. The Chairman understood that a visit to IH sites would be arranged on 4 July 1996 by the Administration and requested the Administration to invite members of the Panel to the visit as soon as possible. It was suggested the members of the ExCo be invited as well.
[Post-meeting note: The Administration would assist the Panel in organising a separate visit to IH sites in September/October]
19. Dr LAW suggested and members agreed to organize a site visit to inspect NLCDP services in rural areas including Tin Ping Shan Tsuen and Long Bin and to invite members of the ExCo members and public officers to participate.
[Post meeting note: A site visit was organized on 29 June 1996.]
II. Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1486/95-96 and papers tabled).
20. Ms Eva LIU highlighted the objective of the research and advised the Panel that the Chinese version of the report would be available by the following week.
21. Ms Vicky LEE pointed out that for the majority of households (98%), the assistance received by CSSA recipients was less than the normal monthly expenditure. On comparison of the local CSSA scheme with overseas, Ms YU Sin-yui explained that 4 countries, namely Australia, Denmark, United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US) were selected for comparison because among other factors, their CSSA Schemes were non-contributory. She outlined the major features of each of the CSSA Schemes.
22. Dr LAW observed that the amount of CSSA for a family of five CSSA recipients was a little bit on the high side and that the amount of CSSA appeared to increase with the number of recipients. He queried whether there existed a linear relationship between the amount of CSSA received and the number of CSSA recipients, and asked if the research team had considered recommendations, including non-linear methods, so that the CSSA Scheme might present a balanced approach to our resource allocation. In response, Ms LEE informed the Panel that the research team would study the issue further.
23. Responding to Mr LEEs question on whether the figure 33.6% of single-member households each spending $2402 per month, included households receiving CSSA, Ms LEE replied it did not, and the Chairman reminded members that the average monthly expenditure for 33.6% single-member households in 1994/95 was $2,402 and the CSSA for a single-member household in 1995/96 was revised to $2650. By bringing the figure ($2402) from 1994/95 to 1995/96 and considering inflation, the Chairman opined that it would come close to $2650. In answering Miss CHANs question as to why figures of the same period were not used, Ms LEE said that different figures came from different sources such as Social Welfare Department (SWD) and Consensus and Statistic Department (CSD) and when comparison was made, adjustment was needed to reflect inflation.
24. Dr LAW reiterated the importance of a balanced approach to CSSA so that reasonable and adequate assistance could be offered to families of different membership. He mentioned the concerns of the public on CSSA of approximately $11,000 for a household with 5 eligible CSSA members. Furthermore, Dr LAW invited members attention to the comparison of households with CSSA and those without, and the concept of take-up rate. To illustrate the concept of take-up rate, for instance in the group of households with eligible CSSA members, he understood there were households which were qualified and recipient of CSSA, and households which were qualified but did not apply at all. The ratio of households which were qualified and recipients of CSSA to the total number of households with the same number of eligible CSSA members in percentage would be the take-up rate.
25. By using households with 5 members, he understood that there was a group of the households with 5 members who were all qualified for CSSA but did not apply, and from his contacts in the community, he estimated that the said group were much poorer than the other group of the households with 5 members receiving CSSA. The phenomenon might reflect that on the average households with 5 members receiving CSSA would be relatively better off than those households with 5 members not receiving any CSSA or all. Different take-up rates would obviously affect the comparison among groups of households with different eligible members. Dr LAW asked the research team to assess by using different techniques or methods the effect of take-up rate and to reflect it in the research.
26. In response to the Chairmans inquiry about the proportion of elderly people in 33.6% of two-member households, Ms LEE quoted a figure from Social Welfare Department that out of the 33.6% of households, 36% were elderly people of age 60 and above.
27. Dr John TSE asked about the relationship between basic needs and the poverty line in overseas countries and the position of CSSA in Hong Kong among selected countries. In response, Ms LEE pointed out that the CSSA in Hong Kong adopted the UK model to cover mainly the basic needs and partly social needs. By putting UK and US in one group and Australia and Denmark in another, Hong Kong would find itself in between those 2 groups.
28. On being invited to respond to the research report on CSSA by the Chairman, Mr R C WILSON said that he was pleased to note the position of the CSSA in Hong Kong among selected countries and the finding that Hong Kong was the only place in Asia which had a non-contributory social security scheme. The Administration would study the report in detail and respond to its findings in due course.
29. Referring to Appendix 1 of the research report, Dr TSE asked the Administration to explain why there was an increasing trend on the number of PA/CSSA cases from 1971 to 1995 and what the Administration would do to help the needy. The Chairman also noted the rate of increases of PA/CSSA cases between 1985 and 1995 was greater than the same rate between 1971 and 1981 and requested the Administration to explain that phenomenon. Mr WILSON said that more people fell into the CSSA net partly because its eligibility threshold had been progressively relaxed following the significant real increases in the CSSA rates over the last few years. Dr TSE inquired about the percentage of PA/CSSA recipients leaving the scheme and how the Administration helped them to achieve that. Mr WILSON estimated that a recipient would remain on CSSA for an average of about 3 years. Miss CHAN opined that more time should be allowed to discuss the research among Panel members and suggested to hold a meeting with the Administration on the research report.
30. In comparing CSSA with selected countries, Mr Zachary WONG found that in Hong Kong, the amount of CSSA payable was based on actual expenditures using Housing Expenditure Survey (HES) and Social Security Assistance Index of Prices (SSAIP), while in selected countries, the amount was on needs basis using Consumer Price Index. He asked the advantages and disadvantages of those two approaches. In reply, Ms YUE pointed out that in the calculation of the amount of CSSA, an assumption was introduced as to whether expenditures on social activities were included. She further stated that in US and UK, the amount of CSSA covered the basic needs of recipients (i.e. food and clothing) while in Denmark and Australia, on top of basic needs, the amount included estimates on social needs. Mr WILSON clarified that in the recent CSSA Review, the level of CSSA was assessed by two approaches, namely, the basic need budge approach and the Household Expenditure Survey approach which compared the CSSA rates with the actual expenditure of low income groups.
31. Regarding the increase in number of PA/CSSA cases in the last 10 years, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan opined that the increase was due mainly to the increase in unemployment rate because the relaxation of eligibility of CSSA scheme was introduced only recently. He further suggested to form a Subcommittee to study the research on CSSA with staff of RLSD before discussion with the Administration. Referring to Appendix 2, Mr LEE requested the Administration to explain the increase of single person (child) from 700 in 1994/95 to 1200 in 1995/96. Mr WILSON agreed to provide the Panel with an analysis of the increase. As regards Mr LEEs comments on the unemployment rate triggering the increase in PA/CSSA cases, Mr WILSON pointed out that in overall terms, the proportion of CSSA recipients in the unemployed category was relatively small.
32. Mr Eric LI Ka-cheung asked why the four countries were selected for comparison and inquired whether the amount of CSSA in other countries covered expenditures on housing and medical care which were not included in the rate of CSSA in Hong Kong. Furthermore, he noted that in other countries there was a flat rate for public assistance while in Hong Kong, there were special supplements to the standard rate and sought an explanation and a clarification so that comparison might be meaningful. In reply, Ms Vicky LEE explained that Denmark offered an non-contributory scheme, and Australia was a country in the southern hemisphere. UK lent a model which Hong Kong built on and the US was one of the largest economic entities. The Chairman requested the research team to prepare supplementary materials on the queries from the Panel. Members agreed to form a Subcommittee to study CSSA Scheme.
III. Sex and Disability Discrimination (Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 1996
33. Ms Christine LOH briefed the Panel on the Bill and summarized as follows:
- One feature of the Bill was to enable the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to bring court proceedings in its own name;
- Another feature of the Bill was to empower the EOC to promote international standards relevant to the Ordinances such as those set by United Nations;
- Members were asked to consider an appropriate date for the commencement of both Ordinances to replace the proposed date (1 September 1996) in the Bill; and
- Members might consider and recommend an appropriate grace period for small employers.
34. In view of the recent incidents involving discriminations, Dr TSE agreed with Ms LOH that those Ordinances should be implemented as soon as possible, particularly the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, and inquired if priority would be obtained from House Committee to consider the Ordinance. Regarding the concerns of the Administration on the Bill, Ms LOH understood that the financial implications of the Bill became the major hurdle particularly on the issue regarding double benefits and the Administration was considering the introduction of amendments to avoid complications of the issue but it was technically quite difficult. Ms LOH hoped that the issue would not constitute an obstacle to the Bill.
35. Ms Emily LAU observed that of these Ordinances received support from most of the members, the House Committee might gave priority to the Bill. She was also worried about the number of Bills to be considered and the workload involved. With the consent of Ms LOH, the Chairman asked members of the Panel to continue discussions of those Ordinance with Ms LOH beyond the meeting and to express their opinions at the House Committee meeting.
IV. Next meeting
36. The next meeting was scheduled for 14 June 1996 at 10:45 a.m. in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building.
37. The meeting ended at 10:45 a.m.
23 August 1996
* -- Other Commitments
Last Updated on 24 August 1998