LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 648/96-97
[These minutes have been seen
by the Administration]
Ref: CB2/PL/WS

LegCo Panel on Welfare Services

Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 8 November 1996 at 10:45 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, OBE, JP
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Dr Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Hon MOK Ying-fan
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Members absent :
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong*
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee*
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum*
Public officers attending:
Item III
    Mr Carlson CHAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
    Ms Miranda YEAP
    Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
    Mr Carlos LEUNG
    Assistant Director (Youth & Training)
    Miss Johanna TSAO
    Cheif Social Work Officer (Youth)
Items IV - VI
    Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare
Item IV
    Mrs Patricia CHU
    Deputy Director (Services)
    Mrs Eliza LEUNG
    Assistant Director (Rehabilitation)
Item V
    Ms Lorna WONG
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Health & Welfare (Elderly Services)
    Mr Andrew K P LEUNG
    Director of Social Welfare
    Mrs Patricia CHU
    Deputy Director (Services)
    Mrs Leslie HUNG
    Assistant Director (Elderly & Medical Social Services)
Item VI
    Ms Miranda CHIU
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Health & Welfare (Welfare)1
    Mr Andrew K P LEUNG
    Director of Social Welfare
    Mrs Louise S Y WONG
    Deputy Director (Administration)
    Mrs Rachel CARTLAND
    Assistant Director (Social Security)
    Miss Margaret TANG
    Chief Social Work Officer (Social Security)
    Miss Lilian FUNG
    Senior Statistician
Attendance by invitation :
Elderly Rights League HK
    Mr LAM Chun-sing
    Ms LEUNG Ling-choi
    Ms GHONG Yiu-how
    Ms LAU May
Society for Community Organisation
    Mr NG Wai-tung
Clerk in attendance :
    Ms Doris CHAN
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2)4
Staff in attendance :
    Mr Alfred CHAU
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2)4
    Miss Joanne MAK
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2)4 (Des.)

I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting held on 7 October 1996 and matters arising

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 374/96-97)

1. The minutes of the meeting held on 7 October 1996 were confirmed.

Matters arising from the meeting held on 30 October 1996

Consultancy Review of the Social Welfare Subvention System

2. The Chairman informed members that representatives of the Alliance on Concern for Social Welfare Service Development (the Alliance) petitioned the LegCo Duty Roster Members on 7 November 1996 to raise their objection to the "unit grant" funding approach and requested that :

  1. the working group to be formed by the Government in reviewing the funding system should consider other viable options instead of a modification of the "unit grant" proposal; and
  2. representatives of the Alliance and welfare sector front-line workers should be invited to join the working group.

3.Mr Andrew LEUNG revealed that three working groups would be formed to take the review forward. Representatives from the Government, Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would be joining the working groups. Mr LEUNG explained that the Social Welfare Department (SWD) would not implement the "unit grant" funding proposal if it did not gain support from NGOs. He also reiterated that there would be adequate channels to gauge staff's opinions. However, in view of the large number of NGOs (some 170), it would be technically difficult for the SWD to collect opinions directly from the staff and front-liners as they might be diverse and lacking focus. Also to avoid undermining the role of the management of NGOs and HKSCC, the SWD had planned to invite only the management staff of the organisations concerned to join the working groups. These management staff should consult with their staff and reflect their views to the working groups. Nevertheless, at the request of members, Mr LEUNG agreed to give consideration to the requests made by the Alliance as stated above.Adm

II. Items for discussion at next meeting on 13 December 1996

4. Members agreed to discuss the Senior Citizen Card Scheme; and to ask the Administration to suggest two other items for discussion at the next meeting on 13 December 1996.

III.Follow-up on Neighbourhood Level Community Development Projects (NLCDP)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 331/96-97)

Provision of NLCDP services in Interim Housing (IH)

5. Mr Zachary WONG disagreed that the general improvement in living conditions of IH should be the reason for not providing NLCDP services to the areas. He pointed out that the role of social workers was to help the residents in tackling the problems they encountered in their daily lives. The improved physical conditions of IH simply could not substitute the services provided by the social workers. Moreover, he had previously confirmed with the Housing Department that IH was only a type of Temporary Housing Area (THA), even though the structures and design might be different. He therefore could not see why the Administration should exclude IH from receiving NLCDP services.

6. The Chairman referred to the visit to IH sites conducted by the Panel on 25 September 1996 which included two IH sites, namely Block 12 of Kwai Shing Estate East and Long Bin in Yuen Long, the former being a refurbished public housing block and the latter a site within a THA. He understood that there would be three new types of IH.

7. Mr Carlson CHAN clarified that THA was a type of IH and not vice versa. As ExCo had decided to provide NLCDP services to THAs, the existing THA at Long Bin would continue to receive the services.

8. Responding to Mr Zachary WONG's enquiry on the Administration's rationale for not providing NLCDP services to IH areas, Mr Carlson CHAN explained that the Administration had taken into consideration the marked improvement in the general living conditions of IH as compared with THAs. Moreover, the Administration had noted that there would be adequate supply of social welfare services in the vicinity of IH areas because, based on the information provided by the Housing Department, the majority of IH would be provided through refurbishment or conversion of the old public housing units, which had already been built in line with the planning standards for the provision of social services. Hence, the tenants of IH would also be able to avail themselves to ample social services as other tenants of the public housing did. The Administration therefore did not see there were strong justifications for providing NLCDP services to these refurbished old housing units.

9. Mr Zachary WONG then asked specifically whether any NLCDP services would be provided to the IH to be built at Long Bin. Mr Carlson CHAN answered that in the absence of a concrete development plan from the Housing Department on the project, it was premature to take a final view on the matter at this stage.

10. The Chairman requested Mr CHAN to provide details of the construction plan of IH at Long Bin once it was confirmed; and to inform the Panel of their final decision as to whether NLCDP services would be provided to the IH at Long Bin and to explain the basis of the decision if it was not in the affirmative.Adm

11. Mr Zachary WONG moved the following motion seconded by Dr. Law Chi-kwong and it was passed unanimously :

"The panel expressed strong objection to the decision of the Administration of not providing NLCDP services to IH; and reiterated the need for the provision of such services to IH areas."

Review of Pilot NLCDP in Old Urban Areas

12. In response to Miss CHAN Yuen-han's enquiry, Mr Carlson CHAN said that the review group to work on the two pilot NLCDPs in old urban areas (i.e. Mongkok and Nam Cheong) would be set up some time around end of December 1996 and early January 1997. The work schedule, however, would only be available after the review group was formed so that the chairman and members of the group could be consulted. Mr CHAN agreed to report progress made by the review group to the Panel in the future. The Chairman also took the opportunity to re-state the requests made by the Panel to the Administration earlier, which were to include members of the Panel, the front-line social workers of NLCDP and the residents affected by the projects as representatives of this review group. In this connection, Dr LAW Chi-kwong indicated his interest in joining the group as a representative of the Panel.Adm

NLCDP services in Tin Ping Shan Tsuen

13. The Chairman requested the Administration to re-consider including Tin Ping Shan Tsuen for NLCDP services taking into consideration the serious flooding problem in the area. Mr Carlson CHAN explained that the designation of areas to receive NLCDP had been agreed by the Committee on NLCDPs, which had gone through the consultation with the relevant parties. He stressed that ExCo had already decided not to expand NLCDP services in rural areas. Moreover, the Administration had already allocated huge resources to alleviate the flooding problem in Tin Ping Shan Tsuen through the improvement schemes of the rural area and of the Sham Chun River. These projects were more important in solving the problems faced by the residents.

14. Regarding the ExCo's decision not to expand NLCDP services in the rural areas, the Chairman doubted whether it meant disallowing the extension of existing NLCDP services to an adjacent area by re-deploying the existing NLCDP teams due for disbandment upon clearance of their service areas. The Panel would seek clarification with ExCo on the interpretation.Panel

15. Mr Carlson CHAN also agreed to provide information to the Panel on the re-deployment of resources after disbanding an existing NLCDP team upon the clearance of Tiu Keng Leng.Adm

IV.Progress Report on Working Group on Allied Health Personnel - Occupational Therapists (OT)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 331/96-97(02))

16. As Mr R C Wilson would proceed on his pre-retirement leave on 27 November 1996, the Chairman thanked Mr WILSON for his contribution to the Panel. Mr WILSON wished the panel every success in the future.

17. Mr WILSON briefed members on the recommendations made in the captioned progress report submitted to the Panel.

18. Dr LAW Chi-kwong asked if the Administration had any information on the supply of OT in the private sector and whether it had considered to purchase such manpower for the public sector. Mr WILSON said according to the Association of Occupational Therapists, there were very few OT in the private sector and their services were very expensive. In fact, the shortage problem existed as well in the private sector. Nevertheless, Mr WILSON agreed to explore further the feasibility of the option.Adm

Mr WILSON reported that he had submitted bids for funds to create the proposed additional enior OT and OT Assistant posts; and was examining the possibility of using funds from the Jockey Club and Queen Elizabeth Foundation for the Handicapped for these pilot posts.Adm

19. With reference to Annex II of the progress report, Mr LEE Chuek-yan pointed out that the supply of OT by Polytechnic University by 2006/07 still fell far short of the demand (i.e. demand including manning ratios not yet approved). Mr WILSON explained that it was the maximum number of OT that the University could supply given their resource constraints. Mr WILSON added that the standing committee to be formed would continue to monitor the position and explore other options to solve the shortage problem. A comprehensive report addressing the manpower shortage of OTs together with Clinical Psychologists and Physiotherapists would be compiled by the end of 1996 and made available to the Panel and the public then.Adm

V.Support network for vulnerable elderly people

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 331/96-97 (03))

20. Mrs Patricia CHU briefed members on the information paper entitled " Social Networking for the Elderly" submitted by the Administration. The paper outlined the background, objectives and service targets of the scheme. Mrs CHU explained that the networking system was a comprehensive and structured approach in ensuring that vulnerable elderly people would have a link with a volunteer. She highlighted that there would be a coordinating mechanism supported by the SWD at the headquarters level and implemented by the District Social Welfare Offices and multi-service centres at the district level to organise the volunteers to ensure effective deployment of them in helping the elderly.

21. Dr LAW Chi-kwong enquired how the SWD would ensure adequate supply of volunteers to implement the scheme, which would require about 20,000 volunteers as estimated by him. He was also concerned about the division of responsibilities between the SWD and service centres at districts. In response, Mrs CHU said that every effort would be made to recruit the maximum number of volunteers by involving SWD and NGO units, local groups and organisations in this networking system. The intention was to involve the community as far as possible and to strive for the optimal use of resources by this territory-wide and inter-departmental networking system. Mrs CHU informed that a priority list of vulnerable elderly would be drawn up with reference to the health conditions and individual circumstances of the elderly persons concerned and those on the list would be matched with volunteers in the first instance. An appeal was made to the LegCo Panel members for their support and involvement in the scheme.

VI.Survey report on poor elderly people who are not receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 217/96-97)

22. Mr NG Wai-tung gave a short presentation of the survey report and highlighted that many non-CSSA recipients were living with greater difficulties than CSSA recipients as many of them were earning an income too low to meet the costs for their basic needs. The report also featured that, in the absence of medical or rental subsidies, non-CSSA recipients had to spend substantially on medical services and rental with very little money left for food. Based on their findings, the Elderly Rights League HK and the Society for Community Organisation (SOCO) which compiled the survey report requested:

  1. to relax the asset limit for application of CSSA by raising the asset criteria to $151,000;
  2. to define a poverty line for those non-CSSA elderly people; and, by improving the existing social security assistance (such as increasing the Old Age Assistance and providing free medical service), ensure the non-CSSA recipients attained a living standard above the poverty line; and
  3. to develop an old age pension scheme in the long run.

Four non-CSSA elderly persons who had savings more than $33,000 attended the meeting to give a brief account of their income and expenditure pattern. They served as examples of the poverty cases as mentioned in the survey report.

23. Mr WILSON explained that the asset limit of $33,000 had been set in the recent CSSA Review and represented a 24% increase over last year's limit. He strongly advised that the non-CSSA elderly people should consider using some of their savings to bring the level below $33,000. Once they became eligible for CSSA, the elderly people would be guaranteed a stable monthly income of around $3000 with many other additional medical and social welfare benefits available to them free of charge.

24. Most members disagreed that the elderly should be required to use their savings to a level below $33,000. They considered $33,000 was a very minimal amount and, in the absence of a comprehensive old age scheme, it was understandable for the elderly to have some savings for the sake of security.

25. Mr WILSON agreed to review the background in fixing $33,000 as the asset criteria and to consider whether there was a case for increasing the limit, especially in the case of the elderly.Adm

26. The Chairman also requested the Administration to develop a comprehensive scheme to help the poor elderly. He said the matter of poverty would be further discussed at the Panel meetings later.

27. The meeting ended at 1:10 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat

5 December 1996

*-- other commitments

Last Updated on 22 August 1998