LegCo Paper No. CB(2)1168/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref: CB2/PL/WS

LegCo Panel on Welfare Services

Minutes of Meeting
held on Friday, 13 December 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming (Chairman)
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    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
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling

Members absent :

    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee *
    Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, OBE, JP *
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum *
    Hon MOK Ying-fan *

Public officers attending :

Mr HO Wing-him
Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare

Item III - Senior Citizen Card Scheme
Ms Lorna WONG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health & Welfare
(Elderly Services)
Mrs Leslie HUNG
Assistant Director of Social Welfare
(Elderly and Medical Social Services)
Mr FUNG Pak-yan
Senior Social Work Officer
(Elderly and Medical Social Services)
Mr Terence LAU
Executive Officer (Special Duties)
Health and Welfare Branch

Item IV - Volunteer and Naval Volunteer Pensions (Amendment) Bill
Mr Daniel SIN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health & Welfare
(Welfare)2 (Acting)
Assistant Director of Accounting Services

Item V - Creation of a Directorate Post in the Health and Welfare Branch
Mr Daniel SIN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health & Welfare
(Welfare)2 (Acting)

Clerk in attendance :

Ms Doris CHAN
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)4

Staff in attendance :

Miss Joanne MAK
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)4

I. Confirmation of minutes of meetings held on 30 October and 8 November 1996 and matters arising

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 649/96-97)

The minutes of the meetings held on 30 October and 8 November 1996 were confirmed.

Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 1997

2. The Administration informed members that the captioned Bill was being finalised and would be submitted to the Legislative Council in January 1997. The relevant letter from the Administration would be circulated to members for reference.


II. Matters for discussion at the next meeting

3. Members agreed to discuss the following at the next meeting scheduled for 10 January 1997 -

  1. Welfare services for new immigrants from China; and
  2. Support network and provision of emergency alarm bells for vulnerable elderly people.

4. Members agreed to schedule the following for discussion in February and March 1997 -

    14 February 1997

    Rehabilitation and support services for people suffering from mental illness after discharge from psychiatric institutions.

    14 March 1997

  1. Review on the rapid expansion of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) and its role in the provision of direct social services; and
  2. Inadequacy of supervision in the provision of rehabilitation service and services for the elderly people.

Dr LAW Chi-kwong would provide short papers on these two items.

Dr LAW Chi-kwong

III. Senior Citizen Card Scheme

(LegCo Papers Nos. CB(2) 681/96-97 (01) and (02) )

5. Dr LAW Chi-kwong briefed members on the improvement measures proposed by the Democratic Party (DP), including -

  1. Introducing the principles of marketing to the Scheme and setting up a "marketing team" made up of relevant professionals to implement this new approach;
  2. Further promotion of the "Senior Citizen Card Ambassador Programme" and to survey the genuine needs of the elderly.
  3. Increasing the promotion of the Scheme such as improving the presentation of the poster displaying the concession items covered by the Scheme.

6. The Chairman highlighted that, in accordance with the research conducted by the City University of Hong Kong in October 1996, only 11% of the respondents surveyed had frequently used the card. He had also heard many complaints about the Scheme criticising that it had failed to meet the genuine need of the elderly people.

7. The Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare thanked DP for their proposals and analysis. While acknowledging that it was also the intention of the Administration to seek improvements to the Scheme where possible, he considered that it should be regarded as a success in view of the large number of organizations participating in the Scheme, which had been implemented for only two years and participation in the Scheme was entirely on an voluntary basis.

8. The Administration informed members that they had compiled a paper in response to the proposal made by DP on the promotion of the Scheme. It welcomed this opportunity to listen to comments from Panel members on how the Scheme could be further improved.

9. The Administration reported that the "Senior Citizen Card Ambassador Scheme" implemented by the SWD early this year had been a great success, raising the number of participating organisations from 375 in March 1996 to 674 in October 1996, which represented an increase of 80%. The success of the Ambassador Scheme had shown that the needs of the elderly could be better met at the district level. As a result, resources had been newly allocated to all District Social Welfare Offices to conduct promotional programmes similar to the Ambassador Scheme before April 1997 to invite elderly people and shops to join the Scheme.


10. The Administration further reported that they were considering to improve the design of the poster to make it easier for the elderly to read.


11. In response to the Chairman’s enquiry, the Administration informed that around 440,000 elderly people had applied for the card, representing 70% of the targetted group.

12. Members commented that practical use of the concessions should be the most important principle of the Scheme. As medical service was very important to the elderly, members considered that the Hong Kong Medical Association (HKMA) should be requested to allow doctors who had joined the Scheme to have their names publicised and to have sign bearing the logo of the scheme displayed at the entrance of their clinics to facilitate the elderly people in identifying them. The Administration responded that the Association had recently been consulted about its review of its rules and was told that their position in this regard remained unchanged.

13. After discussion, members agreed to write to HKMA requesting it to encourage more members to join the Scheme, to allow doctors to display the logo of the Scheme outside their office and to suggest to its members that a minimum discount of 20% should be offered


14. The Administration reported that they had also approached the shops which had joined the discounts scheme promoted by the District Boards. They said that parallel efforts were made to solicit the support of both local entrepreneurs at the district level and large companies at the territory-wide level. To ensure more effective lobbying of support of the companies, members suggested to involve the business sector in promoting the scheme. Mr James TIEN advised that the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, which had not been approached, could be contacted in rendering support to the Scheme. He also suggested to approach particularly the Association of Restaurant Managers and other restaurant associations to encourage more restaurants to participate in the Scheme.

15. Members proposed to consider engaging people with marketing expertise to promote the Scheme. Members further suggested that meetings should be held at intervals of six months or one year to review progress of the improvement made.


16. Members noted that, under the category of public utilities, only the Hong Kong Electric Company Limited had joined the Scheme. They considered that more senior government officials such as the policy secretary concerned should help to lobby the support of more public utilities companies. Members also criticised that the Hong Kong Electric Company Limited should not only offer concessions to the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients or those eligible for CSSA. Members doubted the appropriateness of such eligibility criteria since the primary target of the Scheme was elderly people and not CSSA recipients.

17. The Administration explained that public utility companies actually had offered some kind of concessions through their own schemes to certain groups of elderly people and quoted the cases of the China Light and Power Company Limited and the Hong Kong Telecommunication Company Limited. The common requirements imposed by both companies on the applicants were that they should be CSSA recipients and living alone. The Administration considered that the requirements imposed were justifiable which could ensure that people with the greatest financial difficulties could first obtain the concession.

18. Members considered that the non-CSSA elderly people who were either living alone or with other elderly people (CSSA or non-CSSA recipients) should also be eligible for the concessions since the chance of abuse in these cases would be slim.

19. The Administration agreed to convey members’ views to the companies concerned and to solicit the support of more public utilities companies to join the Scheme through the Economic Services Branch.


20. As regards public transport, the Administration reported that they had included some minibuses and taxi services in the Scheme. However, the scope of participation was affected by the self-proprietorship nature of the businesses and their possible loss of revenue. As for the red minibus which did not have fixed fares, concession offered by them might not be of much practical value to the recipients.

21. Members considered that since participation in the Scheme was on a voluntary basis, the mini-buses and taxi services sector should be approached and the people concerned could choose to join the Scheme or not. They also pointed out that the fares charged for the red mini-buses were normally quite stable and thus any discount offered would also be of real value to the beneficiary.

22. In view of the result of the research showing that the utilization rate of the card was low, members queried the genuine usefulness of the card. The Administration was requested to focus on the basic needs of the elderly people by studying their mode of consumption. The number of participating shops should not be the only consideration in assessing the usefulness of the Scheme. Instead, members opined that it was more important to increase the utlization rate.

23. The Administration explained that they had taken into account the needs of the elderly people and focused promotion to shops, clinics and restaurants. In fact, shops and clinics constituted 42.5% and 36.6% respectively of the 674 participating shops. The Administration hoped that if resources permitted, a wider sample survey could be considered to obtain a more accurate picture.

24. In view of the fact that 70% of the people aged 65 and above had already joined the Scheme, Mr Zachary WONG asked if the Administration would consider lowering the age limit to 60 to increase the number of beneficiaries.

25. The Administration explained that because most participating shops and organisations offered their concessions to elderly people aged 65 and above, it was based on pragmatic consideration that the Senior Citizen Cards were issued to elderly people aged 65 and above. Nevertheless, participating shops / organizations which would individually extend the discount scheme to people below 65 would be specified in the poster and these elderly people could obtain these concessions through the production of their ID cards.

26. Mr James TIEN objected to lowering the age limit to 60 as it would have other implications and might lead to the same revision in the age criterion for other social welfare schemes.

27. In concluding the discussion, the Chairman asked the Administration to consider the views expressed by members, especially those relating to increasing the utilization of the Scheme. He also pointed out that the Administration should consider conducting its own survey on the Scheme if it doubted the accuracy of that conducted by the City University of Hong Kong. He stressed that efforts must be targetted at areas of real benefits to the elderly. He undertook to write to the HKMA regarding the points in paragraph 13.

IV. Volunteer and Naval Volunteer Pensions (Amendment) Bill

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 681/96-97 (03) )

28. The Administration briefed members on the background of the Volunteer and Naval Pensions Ordinance (the Ordinance) and explained that the proposed amendments were necessary to remove the link between the Ordinance and the relevant UK Order as the coverage of the latter was very extensive most of which was irrelevant to Hong Kong. The general conditions for award and the rates of payments under the UK Order were to be adopted and applied to members of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps and the Hong Kong Naval Volunteer Force, with future adjustments to be made taking into account the local situations.

29. In response to members’ questions, the Administration clarified that the "age allowance" in para. 9 (b) of their paper was not equivalent to the old age allowance currently issued in Hong Kong. It was an extra allowance issued to eligible widows of the volunteer veterans if they were at 65 and above. Having considered the practical circumstances and consulted representatives of the retired volunteer forces, the "allowances in relation to children under 16 and allowances for unmarried persons who lived as spouses" were agreed not to be adopted in the Bill.

30. The Administration explained the nature of the "temporary allowance" in para. 9 (b), which was issued to the widow to relieve her of any financial difficulties during the immediate six months after the death of the retired volunteer force member.

31. The Administration told the Panel that the 89 beneficiaries comprised both Chinese and westerners who had rendered service during the Second World War in the defence of Hong Kong.

32. As the proposed amendment to the Ordinance was not related to Hong Kong’s change of sovereignty, the matter did not need to be discussed by the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group.

33. In response to SALA’s enquiry, the Administration reported that the cost entailed by the Ordinance had all along been borne by the Hong Kong Government.

V. Creation of a Directorate Post in Health and Welfare Branch

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 681/96-97 (04) )

34. The Administration informed members that the proposed Principal Assistant Secretary (Health and Welfare) Welfare 2 (PAS(HW)W2) would be responsible for overseeing policy matters relating to welfare services for children and youth at risk, monitoring and resolving problems associated with the manpower supply of allied health personnel and social workers, reviewing subvention policy for non-governmental organisations, and introducing legislations for the registration of social workers. They explained that there had been a substantial increase in workload in these areas because of the rising expectation and concern of the public on problems in these areas and on the provision of welfare services over the past few years. In reply to members’ questions, the Administration explained that the workload in these areas were previously taken up by PAS(HW)W1 before a temporary post of PAS(HW)W2 was on loan to HWB in Jan 1994. Members recognised the heavy schedule involved and were generally content with the proposal.

35. At the request of members, the Administration would provide a copy of the relevant organisation chart for their reference. The Administration hoped to submit the proposal to the Establishment Subcommittee in February 1997. Pending approval for the proposed creation, the post would be temporarily financed by the Branch in the interim period.


36. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 12:35 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
10 February 1997

* -- Other Commitements

Last Updated on 22 August 1998