The meeting ended at 1:10 p.m.

LegCo Secretariat
25 October 1996

* -- Other Commitments

Last Updated on 22 August 1998

LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 374/95-96
[These minutes have been seen
by the Administration]
Ref: CB2/PL/WS

LegCo Panel on Welfare Services

Minutes of Meeting held on Monday, 7 October 1996 at 12:00 noon in the Legislative Council Chamber

Members Present:

    Hon LI Wah-ming (Chairman)
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
    Non-Panel Members
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
    Hon SIN Chung-kai

Members Absent:

    Hon David CHU Yu-lin (Deputy Chairman) *
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee *
    Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, OBE, JP *
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum *
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP *
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan *
    Dr Hon LAW Chi-kwong *
    Hon MOK Ying-fan*

Public Officers Attending:

    Mrs Katherine FOK, OBE, JP
    Secretary for Health and Welfare
    Mr Andrew LEUNG, JP
    Director of Social Welfare
    Mrs Louise WONG, JP
    Deputy Director of Social Welfare

    Mrs Patricia CHU
    Deputy Director of Social Welfare

    Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare
    Mr Augustine CHOI
    Commissioner for Rehabilitation
    Ms Lorna WONG
    Principal Assistant Secretary (Health and Welfare) Elderly Services

Clerk in Attendance:
    Ms Doris CHAN
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2)4

Staff in Attendance:

    Mrs Justina LAM Assistant Secretary General 2
    Mr Alfred CHAU Senior Assistant Secretary (2)4

I. Rescheduling of meeting

Members agreed that the next meeting scheduled for 28 October 1996 should be re-scheduled to 30 October 1996 at 8:30 a.m.

II.Briefing by the Secretary for Health and Welfare on the Governor’s Policy Address

The Chairman welcomed representatives of the Administration and asked Mrs Katherine FOK to brief the Panel on the Policy Address.

Mrs Katherine FOK highlighted the salient points of the following items in the Policy Address:

  1. Caring for the elderly;
  2. Meeting the needs of people with a disability;
  3. Helping children and young people at risk;
  4. Supporting the family;
  5. Providing social security; and
  6. Preparing for the transition.

Mrs FOK also informed members that reports on the following items would be made to the Panel:

  1. A concluding report from the Working Group on Allied Health Personnel;
  2. The development of a computerised, integrated waiting list for residential care services for the elderly;
  3. A progress report from the Working Group on Care for the Elderly; and
  4. A progress report on the support network for vulnerable elderly people.

III.Members’ questions

Supporting the family

Miss CHAN Yuen-han pointed out that in 1992 the Administration undertook to provide an additional 1200 day crèche places for children by 1997, but only 457 places were provided at the end of September 1996. It also pledged to provide an additional 5600 day nursery places 1997, but only 3095 places were available at the end of September 1996. She asked the Administration to explain why the targets were not met and how the targets would be achieved on time.

Mrs Patricia CHU pointed out that the Administration had reviewed the expansion of day crèche services in view of the declining utilization rate and had adjusted the target to 606 places by 1997. She explained that the declining utilization rate was due to low take-up rate of children and the fact that some service centres were located in old districts and there was a need for the reprovisioning of day crèches to newly developed areas. For day nursery places, the Administration encountered difficulties in securing suitable premises under the Purchase Programme although much effort was spent. The Administration would continue to try to find appropriate premises and hoped that the overall target could be met in 1997.

Miss CHAN Yuen-han found that Mrs CHU’s answers were unacceptable. Insufficient day crèche places and day nursery places had existed since 1988. At the same time, problems of removing service centres to newly developed areas and difficulties in securing suitable premises had also been identified. Therefore the Administration was already well aware of those problems and difficulties when it made its pledges in 1992. Miss CHAN requested the Administration to explain why the same reasons were given now.

Mrs Patricia CHU explained that day nurseries required large premises which were able to meet fire safety and height requirements and the Administration had encountered difficulties in securing sufficient number of suitable premises under the Purchase Programme. The Chairman pointed out that members would follow up on the problem in securing suitable premises which affected other items in the Policy Address as well.

Percentages of service requirements met by the Administration

Mr SIN Chung-kai asked what percentages of the requirements for welfare services were met, from the demand and supply points of view.

Mrs FOK said that the Administration regularly carried out overall studies on demands of services for different target groups, such as the elderly, people with a disability, children and young people. A study on the needs of the elderly would be completed in the middle of 1997. Those studies were necessary because needs for services changed over time. In the provision for services to meet needs, the Administration faced resource allocation problems. It would be difficult for the Administration to express in simple terms what needed to be done. Moreover, there were quality of services, quantity of services, supply and training of professionals and so on that the Administration had to consider when welfare services were provided. Mrs FOK suggested that further discussion on the issue should be held at Panel meetings.

The Chairman requested the Administration to provide members with a written reply to Mr SIN’s question.

Mrs FOK said that the Administration made reference to planning ratios for services, but there were services where planning ratios were not applicable and it was not advisable to rely solely on them. Mr Andrew LEUNG added that demands for welfare services were determined mainly by referring to planning ratios. On top of the quantity aspect, the Administration had to consider the quality of services, and the management system.

The Chairman asked the Clerk to include the item in the list of outstanding items for future discussion.

Helping children and young people at work

Dr John TSE understood that some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) did not receive sufficient support to provide services on child care and child abuse. He pointed out that from 1989 to 1995, 127 children died in accidents while staying in their homes alone. He referred to the Policy Address and asked for additional information on the nature of the multi-disciplinary committees on child abuse. Mr Andrew LEUNG said that the committees were organised by District Social Welfare Officers to co-ordinate efforts of various government departments. Mrs Patricia CHIU said that in addition to the provision of family life education to parents regarding proper child rearing and prevention of cruelty to children, the Administration had provided additional social workers for the Child Protective Services Unit which was responsible for carrying out statutory duties related to child abuse. She understood that there was an NGO receiving limited funds which offered services mainly on the prevention of child abuse in families. She emphasized the importance of coordinated effort of the Administration and NGOs on child abuse at district levels.

Preparing for the transition

Mr LEE Kai-ming asked whether the Administration had studied the demands on welfare services of new immigrants from China and what services were provided.

Mrs FOK said that in addition to SWD, other departments were involved in the provision of services to new immigrants. In formulating plans for services, the Administration had considered the needs of new immigrants. She described the services provided by International Social Service Hong Kong Branch (ISS) and various government departments. In response to Mr LEE’s question on whether there were any restrictions on new immigrants to welfare services, Mrs Patricia CHU said that they were treated as ordinary citizens in Hong Kong.

Caring for the elderly

Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung said that according to non-official sources, about sixteen private residential care homes were closed down and more than four hundred elderly residents were affected after new licensing arrangements were implemented. He understood that at least 160 elderly people were forced out of those homes due to financial difficulties. Moreover, about nine thousand elderly people were on the waiting list for residential care services with a waiting time of about three years. He asked the Administration how it proposed to deal with those problems.

Mrs FOK said that the Administration helped residential care homes make improvements, particularly in safety, to comply with the new requirements. The Director of Social Welfare had the power to grant certificates of exemption to existing homes to allow time for them to make improvements to meet the licensing requirements. During this process, some homes had to relocate to premises in other districts and some had to merge with other homes. As regards the waiting list, some elderly people preferred to wait for places in districts of their choice and some of them put their names on the waiting list in anticipation of a future need for residential care services. On the assistance available to elderly people with financial difficulties, Mrs Patricia CHU said that they could apply for the comprehensive social security allowance if they were qualified. SWD had also helped relocate elderly people from one home to another when requested to do so.

Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung further enquired whether the number of elderly people on the waiting list for residential care services had increased since July 1996 and how SWD planned to reduce the number of applicants on the waiting list.

Mr Patricia CHU explained that the number of elderly people on the waiting list were those who had applied for places in government subvented residential care homes and included some who were now in private residential care homes. Those elderly people in private residential care homes affected by the new licensing arrangements would be assisted to be relocated to other districts or transferred to merging institutions.

Mr Andrew LEUNG stressed that the objective of implementing new licensing arrangements was to ensure the safety of the elderly people in residential care homes. Moreover, SWD would maintain its monitoring role and would assist as far as possible in relocating those elderly people in residential care homes which faced difficulties in meeting new licensing requirements. As the aging problem of the Hong Kong population continued, Mr LEUNG envisaged that the number of applicants on the waiting list for residential care services for the elderly would increase. He said that there were new facilities to be implemented to alleviate the waiting time of those applicants.

Dr John TSE Wing-ling suggested that the Administration should increase the number of outreach teams for elderly services to alleviate the serious problem of elderly people committing suicide. He stated that studies had shown that vulnerable elderly people seldom made use of the proposed support network and was not confident of the pilot scheme.

Mr Andrew LEUNG said that the development of a new support network for vulnerable elderly people would not only deal with the problem of suicide of elderly people but would also assist single elderly people with other needs. The support network included outreach services for elderly people by paying them more visits. The network would establish a list of elderly people with special needs so that special care and attention would be directed to them.

Providing social security

Mr Zachary WONG Wai-yin referred to paragraphs 78, 79 and 81 of "Hong Kong: Transition" - Address by the Governor at the opening of the 1996/97 session of the Legislative Council on 2 October 1996 to illustrate the difficult lives of the unfortunate minority in Hong Kong depending on social security, and pointed out that the Governor seemed to imply that there were insufficient welfare services in Hong Kong.

Mrs Katherine FOK replied that the Administration was, of course, eager to provide better welfare services; the Governor was aware of the constraints involved in expanding services as fast as we would wish. She detailed the constraints in providing welfare services which included the availability of premises, manpower and resources. She said that it took time to locate appropriate land, and to secure financial resources to build appropriate premises. Suitable professionals had to be trained to provide the services. She stressed that the Administration aimed at providing quality welfare services for targeted groups such as the elderly, and people with a disability.

Mr Zachary WONG Wai-yin referred to paragraph 81 of the Governor’s address in which he stated that "you would be hard-pressed to live it up on Hong Kong social security" to illustrate that the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) was not enough and urged the Administration to increase the allowance.

In response, Mrs Katherine FOK said that CSSA allowances had been increased in April 1996 following a comprehensive review of the CSSA Scheme and the Administration would review the scheme again when the need arose.

Mr CHAN Wing-chan asked whether the CSSA would be increased to include medical expenses for those who chose to retire to Guangdong to receive their CSSA payments there.

Mrs Louise WONG said the CSSA recipients were to be paid the long term supplement in additional to the basic allowance. Given the lower cost of living in Guangdong, it was premature to conclude if there were need for a further medical supplement, the level of which would be difficult to determine. Furthermore, as the new scheme had not yet been implemented, a review should be done some time after its implementation.

Mr CHAN Wing-chan suggested that the rate of a further medical supplement could be determined by averaging the amounts that elderly people spent on medical expenses. Mrs Louise WONG said that it was possible that the CSSA payments would be sufficient to cover medical expenses in Guangdong and that the Administration would review the new scheme after implementation.

Miss CHAN Yuen-han asked why the introduction of the medical supplement had to be examined upon a review of the new scheme some time after its implementation. She argued that the amount of the medical supplement could be determined by using relevant figures from China.

Mr Andrew LEUNG reiterated that the new scheme was not implemented yet and that the Administration had to obtain more figures for analysis and decision-making.

In response to Mr LEE Kai-ming’s question on why CSSA payments for local elderly retirees in China was restricted to Guangdong, Mr Andrew LEUNG said that most of them would choose to retire to Guangdong at the present time and NGOs would be invited to implement the new scheme which would be reviewed periodically.

The Chairman expressed his dissatisfaction with the Administration’s responses on the medical supplement to CSSA and said that the Panel would follow up on the issue in due course.