LegCo Paper No. CB(2)2017/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
LegCo Panel on Welfare Services
Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 14 February 1997 at 10:45 am in Conference Room B 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 Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Dr Hon LAW Chi-kwong
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Members absent :
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, OBE, JP
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Member attending :
Public officers attending :
- LegCo Panel on Health Services
- Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
- Mr HO Wing-him
- Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare)
- Mrs Patricia CHU
- Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Services)
- Mrs Eliza LEUNG
- Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Rehabilitation)
- Miss Priscilla TO
- Commissioner for Rehabilitation (Acting)
- Mr Andrew LEUNG, JP
- Director of Social Welfare
- Mrs Louise WONG, JP
- Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Administration)
- Ms Miranda CHIU
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare
- Ms Miranda CHIU
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare
Clerk in attendance :
- Miss Joanne MAK Senior Assistant Secretary (2)4
I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1168/96-97)
The minutes of the meeting held on 13 December 1996 were confirmed.
II. Items to be discussed at the next meeting
2. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next meeting to be held on 14 March 1997 -
(a) Welfare services for new immigrants from China;
(b) Rehabilitation and support services for ex-mental patients; and
(c) A survey on the needs of single parent families
III. Report of the Working Group on Allied Health Personnel
3. On the Chairmans instruction, the discussion on this item was deferred to a joint meeting with the LegCo Panel on Health Services to be held on 28 February 1997.
IV. Disability Discrimination (Proceedings by the Equal Opportunities Commission) Regulation
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1175/96-97 (02))
4. With reference to the Administrations paper, the Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare) ( DS(W) ) sought members views on a regulation to be made by the Secretary for Health and Welfare to empower the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to bring proceedings in its own name under s.72(1) and to seek remedies under s. 72(4)(a) and (g) of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (Cap 487) (DDO). By this proposed regulation, a civil proceeding in a District Court could be initiated by EOC subject to the circumstances as set out in the paper.
5. A member asked if the Administration would consider amending DDO to the effect that a third party could lodge a complaint of alleged discrimination to EOC on behalf of the aggrieved person. DS(W) stated that as laid down under the Disability Discrimination Investigation and Conciliation Rules, a third party was allowed to do so provided that the consent of the aggrieved person was given. However, the member considered that the procedures should be streamlined by repealing the requirement that approval from the aggrieved person had to be obtained before a third party could lodge such a complaint to EOC. DS(W) explained that the rationale for imposing this requirement was to respect the right of the aggrieved person who might preferred not to initiate a civil court case due to personal reasons. He pointed out that the consent of the aggrieved person was important in order to ensure that he or she would co-operate to give evidence in the course of investigation.
6. With reference to para. 11 (d) of the Administrations paper which stated that "a valid consent" from the victim was required for EOC to bring proceedings, a member queried the definition of "valid consent", particularly in the case of a victim being a mentally handicapped person aged 18 and above. The Administration replied that it would depend on the relevant provisions of the future Mental Health (Amendment) Ordinance 1997 to determine which party (such as the guardian) was conferred the power of giving such consent.
|7 Referring to the case of a child with a disability and against whom a discriminated act was committed, a member asked if it would be more appropriate for the child or his/her parents to give "valid consent" to bring civil proceedings. DS(W) undertook to seek legal advice on the matter and provide a written reply to the Panel. ||Adm|
8. Regarding the availability of remedies under the proposed regulation, a member was concerned about the circumstances in which an aggrieved person wished to claim remedies such as reinstatement but was unwilling to bring proceedings in his own name for some personal reasons. He questioned if the regulation could be made more flexible to include remedies under s.72(4)(a) to (g). DS(W) explained that while preparing the regulation to be made under DDO, reference had been made to similar regulation under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) . It was noted that the Legal Advisor of LegCo had expressed reservation on the appropriateness of granting payment of damages to EOC when SDO was introduced into LegCo.
|9. The member replied that while he accepted that remedy like payment of damages as compensation might not be appropriate since EOC was not the aggrieved party but the Administration could consider including punitive or exemplary damages under s.72(4)(f) and also re-employment under s.72(4)(c) in addition to the originally proposed remedies under s.72(4)(a) and (g) to enhance the deterrent effect. DS(W) said that he would seek legal advice with regard to members opinions and give the Panel a written reply.
V. Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA) : Arrangement to relax the Absence Rules for elderly recipients
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1175/96-97 (03))
10. The Director of Social Welfare (D(SW)) briefed members on the proposed Portable Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (PCSSA) Scheme which aimed at allowing the elderly persons to continue to receive CSSA payments after they had retired and moved to Guangdong. He also informed the meeting that he would visit Guangdong shortly mainly to collect more information on the medical service and the homes for the aged available in the Guangdong Province.
|11. A member expressed concern about the availability of cheap and convenient medical service in Guangdong for the PCSSA recipients. He considered that medical service was such an essential item for the elderly CSSA recipients that it should be provided either by a medical insurance scheme or in the form of medical subsidies. D(SW) replied that the charges of medical service at Guangdong were very wide-ranging. He hoped to collect more information on the charging schemes of the medical service there.
12. Another member pointed out that the Administration would achieve great savings by the PCSSA Scheme in terms of rental subsidies, medical cost and other special grants which an elderly CSSA recipient would have been entitled to if he had remained in Hong Kong. The money thus saved should be directed to finance a medical insurance scheme for these PCSSA recipients. In response, D(SW) said that each PCSSA recipient would receive an average monthly payment of $2,055 comprising the standard rate and the annual long term supplement after retiring at Guangdong, which was a high level of payment relative to the living standard in the Guangdong Province. He added that PCSSA recipients could also return to Hong Kong for free medical treatment.
13. Some members did not accept that comparison should be drawn between the rate of $2,055 with the general income of the local people in Guangdong because those local people received much welfare subsidies on housing and medical services which allowed them to live on a low income. They were concerned that the lack of medical provision would discourage the elderly CSSA recipients from joining the Scheme. This was because ailing elderly recipients might not be able to return to Hong Kong for free medical treatment because of their physical disposition.
14. Other members, however opined that, though the medical facilities network was desirable for the PCSSA recipients, it was not necessary to wait until a medical scheme was in place before introducing PCSSA since this might take a long time. There was a general appreciation that the PCSSA Scheme would be of great assistance to elderly CSSA recipients. The long term solution to solve the elderlys problem in Hong Kong was to develop a long term old age retirement scheme.
15. Regarding a members concern about the housing needs of PCSSA recipients at Guangdong and the arrangements for public housing accommodation should these recipients decide later to return and reside in Hong Kong permanently, D(SW) concurred that the availability of housing was one of the factors that elderly CSSA recipients should consider carefully before they decided to retire in Guangdong. However, he considered that under this Scheme, most of the participants should be those who had family members in Guangdong. He also believed that the rental at Guangdong should be far lower than that in Hong Kong. Therefore, housing might not be a great problem to PCSSA recipients. Arrangements had been made with the Housing Department for a certificate of assurance to be issued so that PCSSA recipients could be reallocated public housing should they eventually decide to return and live in Hong Kong.
|16. As for PCSSA recipients who had no family members or relatives in Guangdong, D(SW) stated that the homes for the aged could be one of the choices. Moreover, some organisations were already developing proposals to link these institutions to hospitals so that a package of residential and medical services could be offered at an affordable price.
17. At a members enquiry, D(SW) explained the basis of the eligibility criteria for the PCSSA Scheme. He pointed out that the requirement of an elderly to have received CSSA continuously for a period of not less than three years immediately before moving to mainland China would ensure that the elderly persons concerned were long term CSSA recipients. The requirement would prevent elderly Hong Kong residents who had already moved to mainland China or elsewhere from abusing the system by returning briefly to Hong Kong to sign up for CSSA and then returning immediately to China. A member counter proposed that one year instead of three years would suffice. D(SW) said that there did not appear to be sufficient justification for the requirement to be relaxed pending a review on the Scheme some time later.
18. In response to a members enquiry about whether the Hong Kong Red Cross had the manpower to render adequate supporting service to PCSSA recipients at a level comparable to the social facilities network established in Hong Kong for the elderly, D(SW) explained that the objective of the Scheme was only to provide for a relaxation of the existing CSSA restrictions so that elderly recipients could have a choice of returning to Guangdong. The objective was not to resettle CSSA recipients in China with a full range of social facilities comparable to Hong Kong. However, he added that the Hong Kong Red Cross had extensive experience of working in China. It had 119 branches making up a large network in China. In addition the Red Cross could, on behalf of the Administration, conduct spot checks in the form of home visits to PCSSA recipients and conduct postal reviews of all PCSSA cases for monitoring purposes. Fee-charging escort service could also be provided by the Red Cross for PCSSA recipients who had difficulties returning to Hong Kong on their own for urgent treatment.
19. D(SW) stressed that the participation of the PCSSA Scheme was on a voluntary basis and the Administration would try to provide the information to the elderly for them to decide if the Scheme was suitable for them. DS(W) added that the primary objective of the PCSSA Scheme was to relax the "absence rules" to facilitate some elderly persons to receive CSSA payments even in Guangdong if they so wished. It would not guarantee that the same social facilities support network as in Hong Kong could be created in Guangdong since the Hong Kong Government could not interfere with the social welfare systems in Guangdong.
|20. A member enquired if the Administration would guarantee that the participants of the Scheme were on a voluntary basis and not forced to join it by their sons/ daughters who wanted to shed the responsibility of looking after their parents. D(SW) agreed to take note of this in designing the procedures for scrutinising applications.
|21. The Administration agreed that PCSSA recipients could inform the Hong Kong side their wish to return and reside in Hong Kong before they left Guangdong. The elderly recipients would be reminded of this point when they applied for the PCSSA Scheme.
22. D(SW) explained that an elderly CSSA recipient could exhaust the 180 days permitted absence from Hong Kong before he applied for PCSSA. Thereafter the elderly concerned could be given a maximum period of three months to retain his public housing in Hong Kong with CSSA rental subsidy before he finally decided to take up permanent residence in Guangdong.
|23. At a members enquiry, D(SW) said that Guangdong was a vast province which was chosen as a starting point of this pilot scheme. The Administration would consider whether to extend the scheme to other regions of China after reviews were conducted at a later stage.
24. As for the rationale of suspending the provision of special grants and other payments for a PCSSA recipient during his temporary stay in Hong Kong, D(SW) explained that this was because PCSSA and CSSA were essentially two different schemes and special grants only applied to the latter. For the definition of "temporary stay", D(SW) stated that it referred to any periods not exceeding 180 days in aggregate during which the recipient stayed in Hong Kong without opting out the PCSSA Scheme.
25. Concluding the discussion, the Chairman said that the Administration should be more accommodating towards the need for medical service for the PCSSA recipients, which was members greatest concern. D(SW) agreed to discuss with mainland officials to seek further information pertinent to the successful implementation of the Scheme.
VI. Social Security Allowances : Revision of rates under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and the Social Security Allowance Schemes
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1175/96-97 (04) )
26. The Administration informed members that some of the figures in the information paper had yet to be clarified and thus it had decided to withdraw this item. After revising the paper, the Administration would submit it to the Panel for discussion first before forwarding it to the Finance Committee for funding approval.
The meeting ended at 12:40 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
2 May 1997
Last Updated on 22 August 1998