PLC Paper No CB(2) 231
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and cleared
with the Chairman)
Ref : CB2/PL/WS

LegCo Panel on Welfare Services

Minutes of Meeting
held on Friday, 13 June 1997 at 10:30 am
in the Legislative Council Chamber

Members present :

    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming (Chairman)
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Dr Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Dr John TSE Wing-ling

Members absent :

    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon MOK Ying-fan

Member attending :

    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP

Public officers attending :

Item I

Home Affairs Branch
Mr Carlson K S CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs

Item II
Mr Parrish NG
Principal Assistant Secretary (Housing) 2
Chief Housing Manager (Application)
Mrs Patricia CHU
Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Services)

Items III and IV
Mr HO Wing-him
> Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare)

Item III
Ms Lorna WONG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare
(Elderly Services)
Miss Ann HON
Acting Assistant Director of Social Welfare
(Elderly and Medical Social Services)
Miss Ophelia CHAN
Assistant Director of Social Welfare
Dr KO Wing-man
Deputy Director of Hospital Authority
Consultant Psychiatrist, Castle Peak Hospital

Item IV
Mrs Patricia CHU
Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Services)
Mr Carlos LEUNG
Assistant Director of Social Welfare
(Youth and Training)
Miss Janice TSE
Principal Assistant Secretary (Welfare) 2
Miss Johanna TSAO
Chief Social Work Officer (Youth)

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Mary TANG
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 4 Atg

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Stanley MA
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 9

I. Confirmation of minutes of meetings and matters arising

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2)2383, 2445, 2447 and 2607/96-97)

The minutes of the meetings held on 28 February, 14 March, 20 March and 11 April 1997 were confirmed.

Provision of Neighbourhood Level Community Development Project (NLCDP) services

Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (PAS(HA)) reported that the Review Group on the pilot NLCDP services in old urban areas would finalize its recommendations by July 1997. The Administration would compile and submit a report to ExCo by August/September 1997.

Members were dissatisfied with the schedule as the Administration had originally planned to submit the report to ExCo in May 1997. A member accused the Administration for deliberately procrastinating the issue with a view to resuming discussion on the subject after 30 June 1997 when there would be a change of membership of the legislature. In response, PAS(HA) explained that the delay was due to the wide scope of issues involved. The timetable had been revised in the light of practical requirements.

As regards the NLCDP projects at Sham Tseng/Tsing Lung Tau and Hing Shing Temporary Housing Area (THA)/Hon Man Village, PAS(HA) reported that the Administration remained of the view that the projects should be combined because the population of both areas was far below the criterion. Integration of the two teams was therefore the only possible and cost-effective option to enable provision of NLCDP services to these two areas. In fact, there were five other integration exercises implemented in 1996/97, some of which involved a combined population as large as 8,000. As the added population of Sham Tseng/Tsing Lung Tau and Hing Shing THA/Hon Man Village was only around 3,000, the Administration considered that the proposed absorption would not affect the service standards.

Members noted that the provisions of NLCDP services at Sham Tseng/Tsing Lung Tau and Hing Shing THA/Hon Man Village would be discussed by the Committee on NLCDPs before the end of June 1997. The Chairman requested the Administration to discuss the deployment of NLCDP teams in other service areas as well.


II. Housing for the elderly

(Paper No. CB(2)2648/96-97 (01) - (02))

Dr LAW Chi-kwong highlighted the following salient points of his paper -

  1. elderly persons should be housed in public rental units in accordance with their choices of districts; and

  2. there was a need to review and improve the Elderly Persons Priority Scheme.

Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing (PAS(H)) pointed out that, in processing applications, the Housing Department (HD) had tried its best to accede to the elderly applicants’ preferences for districts as far as resources allowed.

Regarding the co-ordination between HD and the Social Welfare Department (SWD) in the provision of housing for the elderly, Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Services) (DD(S)) reported that joint meetings were regularly held by HD and SWD to exchange views and tighten their co-operation. Over the past year, more than 670 elderly persons referred by SWD had successfully been rehoused in public rental flats. Amongst them, 30% who preferred to live on their own had been provided with self-contained flats. DD(S) added that in case the elderly persons had any problems of adaptation, assistance could be sought from the family services centres of SWD as well as the estate staff of HD.

A member made the following proposals in respect of the Elderly Persons Priority Scheme -

  1. HD should only arrange for those elderly persons who would choose to share accommodation with other elderly persons to live in shared units;

  2. in respect of (a) above, HD should arrange for those who had similar life styles and living habits to share a flat in order to avoid conflicts;

  3. for those who would prefer to live on their own, HD must respect their wishes and allocate self-contained units to them; and

  4. any elderly persons who had difficulties in adapting to communal living should be provided with self-contained units at once.

In response, the Chief Housing Manager (Application) (CHM) assured members that HD had adhered to the arrangements elaborated above. However, due to the scarcity of housing resources, HD could not commit that the elderly persons could be immediately given units elsewhere when they had problems with their room-mates.

CHM informed members that 9,100 flats for the elderly had been built since 1995/96. As there would be 8,600 and 4,700 such flats due for completion by 1997/98 and 1998/99 respectively, CHM was of the view that there would be adequate flats to accommodate the 10,000 elderly waitlistees of public rental housing.

CHM supplemented that senior citizen units which would be available at Tsui Ping Estate by October 1997 contained a separate bathroom for each tenant. The new design would give more privacy to elderly persons in sharing accommodation with others.

Members quoted a few cases to illustrate that HD should allow greater flexibility in its policy governing the addition of authorized tenants, particularly those who wanted to take care of their elderly parents by living with them. Members considered that flexibility was also required in handling cases involving splitting of a household. When there was relationship breakdown between the elderly and the younger generation, HD should relocate either party to another housing unit as soon as possible in order to avoid further conflict.

In response, CHM explained that HD had scrutinized every such application carefully to see if there were full justifications. HD was also reviewing the relevant policies on addition and deletion of authorized tenants. As regards cases involving relationship breakdown between the elderly and the younger generation, CHM explained that the elderly person concerned could apply for another housing unit through the Elderly Persons Priority Scheme.

Members considered the average waiting time of four years for a self-contained unit too long. In contrast, the average waiting time for a shared unit was only two years. They considered that the long waiting time for self-contained units might have forced many elderly persons to accept sharing accommodation with other elderly persons although they preferred to live on their own. CHM explained that the difference in the waiting time for shared units and self-contained units was attributable to the demand and supply of the respective flats. He pointed out that HD had tried different means to increase the supply of self-contained flats such as converting ground floor empty bays to self-contained flats. As regards members’ suggestion of turning those community centres with low usage into self-contained units, PAS(H) indicated that the Home Affairs Branch responsible for the management of the centres would have to be consulted.


A member commented that land should be reserved for the construction of public rental housing in a district undergoing redevelopment so that the affected elderly people could be resettled in the same district. In response, CHM admitted that the supply of public rental housing in urban districts had been limited by the scarcity of land. Nevertheless, HD would continue to look for possible suitable sites in the urban districts for elderly housing.

PAS(H) reiterated that HD had taken into account the interests of the elderly in its formulation of policies. As an example, elderly households were not required to relocate to a cheaper housing unit after they had received rental reduction for two years.


Summing up the discussion, the Chairman stated the requests of the Panel as follows -

  1. greater flexibility should be allowed in the policies governing the addition of family members and splitting of a household in warranted situations;
  2. the supply of self-contained units should be increased; and
  3. land should be reserved for the construction of public rental housing in urban areas for the elderly.

III. Welfare services for senile demented elderly

(Paper No. CB(2)2648/96-97(03))

The Consultant Psychiatrist of the Castle Peak Hospital (CP) briefed members that, amongst those aged 65 or above in Hong Kong, about 4% (i.e. 26,000 elderly persons) were suffering from clinical senile dementia. Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (Elderly Services) (PAS(ES)) pointed out that the Administration was considering to improve services for the senile demented elderly and their caregivers.

A member pointed out that some subvented residential care homes rejected admission of the senile demented elderly because they did not have adequate manpower. In response, Acting Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Elderly and Medical Social Service) (AD(EM)) explained that SWD would not reject cases purely on the ground that they were senile demented. Where necessary, additional resources would be bid for residential care homes to provide for additional manpower to look after the demented persons. Psychogeriatricians from the Hospital Authority (HA) conducted regular visits to the homes to provide medical service to these patients. At members’ enquiries, AD(EM) revealed that there were 26 day care centres where 150 members were senile demented elderly. In addition, 17 and 20 respite care placements were offered by subvented residential care homes and the Holiday Centre for the Elderly respectively. 11 additional day care centres would also be provided by 2000/01.

Members noted that the private residential care homes had also admitted many senile demented elderly and enquired about the government’s role in regulating them. In response, AD(EM) reported that the SWD staff had conducted inspections of these institutes to ensure that they provided an acceptable standard of service. If the institutes were found to have breached any statutory requirements, their licences or certificates of exemption would be revoked. Moreover, psychogeriatricians from HA paid visits to some of these homes and advised the proper way of handling the senile demented elderly. In addition, investigations would be conducted on individual private residential care homes when complaints were received on mishandling of senile demented elderly. She pointed out that under normal circumstances, SWD would not conduct surprise checks to the institutes at midnight unless there were justifiable reasons.

Members noted that the average waiting time for admission to the subvented care-and-attention home was 33 months and considered that it was unacceptable. AD(EM) reported that there were plans to improve the services and indicated that a care-and-attention home attached with a special senile dementia unit with 28 places would be operational in 1998/99. Subject to successful implementation of this pilot scheme and availability of resources, more such units would be considered. As this pilot care-and-attention home was self-financing, it would charge a higher fee than the subvented ones. However, users who had financial difficulties could apply for the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) if they met the eligibility criteria. AD(EM) added that a nursing home planned by the Department of Health to be launched by the end of this year would also admit senile demented elderly patients.

Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare) (DS(W)) informed members that the Health and Welfare Branch (HWB) had commissioned a consultancy study on the provision of services for the elderly, which had included a review on the adequacy of residential care services for the needy elderly. Subject to the adoption of the recommendations of the review, HWB would bid for additional resources to improve welfare services provided for the elderly including those suffering from senile dementia.

Members noted that a separate waiting list of the demented elderly for admission to the care-and-attention homes had not been kept by SWD. They pointed out that such information was needed for SWD to estimate the demand and to require the Planning Department to make provisions for the necessary residential care homes in respective district plans. PAS(ES) explained that SWD did not keep a separate waiting list of the demented elderly because they were treated in the same queue with other elderly applicants for admission to the care-and-attention homes. She added that there were approved planning ratios governing the provisions of care-and-attention homes.

Members opined that the services available for the demented elderly were too minimal and the shortfall of day care centres was particularly acute. PAS(ES) agreed that there was room for improvement. However, she added that apart from residential care homes, many mildly demented elderly were provided with services available at the out-patient clinics in HA. Moreover, it would always be better to support demented elderly to continue to live in the community for as long as possible than putting them in residential institutions.

In response to members’ enquiries, CP revealed that dementia could also happen to those below the age of 65 and the prevalence of these cases would be about 5% of the total dementia cases. Most of the senile demented patients received treatment at the out-patient clinics, memory clinics and from the psychogeriatric outreach teams of HA. Hospitalization would occasionally be required for the more severe cases. He quoted the example of Castle Peak Hospital where about 40 patients (i.e. about 20% of the 160 psychogeriatric patients there) were senile demented elderly. Amongst the psychogeriatric patients, about 20% had to stay in the hospital for an indefinite period of time.

Concluding the discussion, the Chairman reiterated members’ concerns about the shortage of residential care places and day care centres for the demented elderly and urged for an increase in the allocation of resources for these services. He also requested the Administration to consider increasing allocation of resources to non-governmental organisations so that they would not reject admission of the demented patients because of staff shortage.


IV. Review of school social work service

(Paper No. CB(2)2648/96-97(04))

Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Youth and Training) (AD(YT)) briefed members that in 1997/98, 25 schools with more "Band 5" students would be provided with school social workers at a manning ratio of 1:1,000. There would still be 22 such schools which had not yet achieved this target. The overall manning ratio was now 1:1,650.

Members were dissatisfied with the progress made and recalled that they had requested the Administration since 1991 to improve the overall manning ratio to 1;1,000. In response, AD(YT) explained that much resources had been devoted to improve the service. For example, 135 additional school social workers had been provided since 1992/93; and by August 1997, the overall manning ratio would further fall to 1:1,570.

In response to a member’s enquiry, DD(S) explained that the demand for school social work service would be one of the issues to be discussed by the Working Group on Review of School Social Work Service. She assured that the Working Group would examine the manning ratio, the role of the school social workers, and their interfacing with school personnels and other non-school based services. Consultations would be made with various professional bodies and school principals. Members considered that the Working Group should conduct the review expeditiously in view of the influx of Chinese immigrants and the worsening youth problems as reflected in the recent spate of youth suicides.


V. Any Other Business

At members’ enquiries, DS(W) reported that the research study commissioned by SWD on the financial resources and needs of CSSA elderly recipients had yet to be finalized. As it would not be ready until July / August 1997, he could not provide any details at the moment.

The meeting ended at 12:45 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
1 September 1997

Last Updated on 22 August 1998