LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 647/96-97
[These minutes have been seen
by the Administration]
Ref: CB2/PL/WS

LegCo Panel on Welfare Services

Minutes of Meeting held on Wednesday, 30 October 1996 at 8:30 a.m. in the Legislative Council Chamber

Members Present :
    Hon 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
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Members Absent :
    Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, OBE, JP*
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP*
    Hon MOK Ying-fan*
Public Officers Attending:
    Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare
Item III
    Ms Miranda CHIU
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare)1
    Mr Andrew LEUNG, JP
    Director of Social Welfare
    Mrs Louise WONG, JP
    Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Administration)
    Mrs Rachel CARTLAND
    Assistant Director (Social Security)
    Miss Margaret TANG
    Chief Social Work Officer (Social Security)
    Miss Lilian FUNG
    Senior Statistician
Item IV
    Ms Lorna WONG
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare
    (Elderly Services)
    Mr Andrew LEUNG, JP
    Director of Social Welfare
    Mrs Leslie HUNG
    Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Elderly & Medical Social Services)
    Dr Shirley IP
    Senior Manager (Service Planning)
Item V
    Mr Andrew LEUNG, JP
    Director of Social Welfare
    Mrs Louise WONG, JP
    Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Administration)
Clerk in Attendance :
    Ms Doris CHAN Chief Assistant
    Secretary (2)4
Staff in Attendance :
    Mr Alfred CHAU
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2)4

I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting held on 3 October 1996 and matters arising

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 234/96-97)

1. The minutes of the meeting held on 3 October 1996 were confirmed.

2. Members agreed to dissolve, with immediate effect, the following two subcommittees -

  1. Subcommittee on Legislation for the Mentally Handicapped; and
  2. Subcommittee on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) study.

The subject matters of the two subcommittees would be followed up by this Panel.

II. Items for discussion at next meeting on 8 November 1996

3. Members agreed to discuss the following at the next meeting on 8 November 1996 -

  1. Follow-up on the Neighbourhood Level Community Development Project services (NLCDP);
  2. Progress report of the working group on allied health personnel: occupational therapists;
  3. Support network for vulnerable elderly people; and
  4. Survey report on poor elderly people not receiving CSSA.

III. Research on CSSA Scheme

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 13/96-97)

4. Miss Eva LIU and Ms S Y YUE briefed members on their research report entitled "Income and Expenditure Patterns of Low Income Households in Hong Kong", which explained the significant increase in CSSA recipients; and provided information on the household components, age and income level of the single-member as well as two-member CSSA households. The report also provided details on the Basic Needs (BN) approach and the Household Expenditure Survey (HES) approach, which had been used by the Government in reviewing the adequacy of the social security assistance rates.

5. The report was concluded with the following observations -

  1. CSSA recipients were noted to spend much more on food than that assumed by the BN budget, especially the single elderly CSSA recipients whose actual monthly expenditure on food was about $300 more than the amount assumed by BN budget (Table 7 of the report);
  2. Under the HES approach, different reference groups had been used in reviewing the CSSA allowance rates for adult and elderly groups. This methodology might cause inconsistency in deciding on the rates as the income and expenditure patterns for different reference groups varied a lot (Tables 8 and 9 of the report); and
  3. It was noted that the average monthly income of the lowest 5% to 30% income groups (non-CSSA recipients) fell far short of their average monthly expenditure. Attention was called for to consider if it was necessary to provide additional subsidies to this range of income groups (Table 10 of the report).

6. With reference to Table 7, Mr R C WILSON said that in the case of the single elderly, CSSA recipients spent $1,327 per month which was well below both the relevant BN budget ($1,524 per month) and the actual CSSA payment ($1,848 p.m.). This seemed to indicate that the CSSA payment was adequate. However, Mr Zachary WONG pointed out that the basic needs of the CSSA recipients according to the BN budget had actually been underestimated. The point raised in para. 5(a) above was one of the examples which illustrated how the Administration had underestimated the recipients’ need on food by about $300 per person per month in 1994/95. The CSSA recipients had to minimise their consumption on other less essential items in order to save enough money for food. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong also supplemented that Table 1 of Appendix 3 of the report clearly showed how the CSSA recipients were spending far less than what they should on all the other items of basic necessities in order to save money for food. Mr WILSON noted that elderly CSSA recipients for some reasons had been spending very little on the basic necessities and considered it a matter of concern. While members explained that these CSSA recipients, the majority of whom were the elderly, were trying to put aside a few hundred dollars each month to meet special needs and for a sense of security, Mr WILSON strongly advised that these CSSA recipients should be encouraged to spend the full allowance because their monthly income was secure once they were included in the CSSA scheme and there was thus no need to attempt to save part of the payments.

7. Mr Andrew LEUNG said that supplementary allowances to meet various special needs were available to the elderly such as subsidising them on medical cost or purchases of special items as necessary. However, members pointed out that the CSSA recipients very often did not know about these special subsidies which were seldom publicised. Mr LEUNG agreed to examine why CSSA recipients had been underspending the CSSA allowance and to report findings to the Panel.Adm

8. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan criticised that the BN budget had been drawn up on the basis of many illogical assumptions. For example, the elderly were allowed to have some travelling expenditure while they were presumed to have no need for eating out. Members opined that the budget actually failed to cater for the basic needs of the recipients but rather only maintained the recipients at a bare subsistence level. In particular, the BN budget on the item of food was severely criticised by members which allowed the recipients to spend only about $22 on food each day during 1994/95.

9. Mr Andrew LEUNG said that although the CSSA recipients were considered to be in need of $7.60 for each meal in 94/95 under the BN budget, they could now spend $50 per day on food or $17 per meal with their current CSSA allowance of $2,055. Members queried the statement and Miss Lilian FUNG clarified that while the figure of $7.60 per meal was based on the BN provision, the figure of $50 was based on the spending pattern of elderly CSSA recipients in 1994/95, under which 75% of their expenditure on standard rate items was on food. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong pointed out that it was very unreasonable to expect the CSSA recipients to suppress all other expenditures in order to have $50 per day for food.

10. In concluding the discussions, the Chairman requested the Administration to -Adm
  1. provide information on the income and CSSA payment of the 2,000 CSSA cases in the low earnings group;
  2. review the BN budget and raise the allowance rates for each of the item to a more acceptable level;
  3. increase the allowances for the single elderly CSSA recipients in particular the amount for food; and
  4. provide a written reply to explain the technical reasons for the selection of different reference groups with reference to para. 5 (b) above.

IV. Computerisation of the integrated waiting list for residential care services for the elderly

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 232/96-97 (01) )

11. Members expressed great concern over the Administration’s deferred implementation of the full computerised network to link up all residential institutions for the elderly in addition to the integrated waiting list as they saw that, without the former, the latter could not help much in accelerating the admission of applicants to the residential care institutions. Members also criticised that the cost for development of the required software programme for this proposed computer system was too high in view of its limited functions.

12. Ms Lorna WONG explained that the proposed system would greatly enhance the efficiency in processing applications for residential care services by streamlining the existing procedures as well as facilitating the co-ordination of overall management of the services. The Administration did not intend to rule out implementing the full network for linking up all residential care institutions but just wished to defer this project until the completion of the proposed system. The implementation of the full network linking up all residential care institutions would be further explored in the light of experience gained in operating the computerised waiting list. Ms WONG said that the establishment of the computerised waiting list had to be accorded higher priority because it had to be ready to tie in with the commissioning of the first nursing home which would be operational by August 1997.

13. Members agreed to further discuss the matter at the Finance Committee meeting on 1 November 1996.

V. Consultancy review of the social welfare subvention system

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 232/96-97 (02))

14. Mr Andrew LEUNG briefed members on the outcome of the consultation exercise conducted with the social welfare sector on the review of the social welfare subvention system, the comments of which were summarised as follows -

  1. there was a general consensus among the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in support of the performance proposals and the need for a more streamlined and flexible subvention system;
  2. there was, however, no support for the "unit grant" formula. NGO staff were generally worried about their pay and job security; while the NGO managements were worried about a lack of expertise and resources to implement the new system which would impose new demands on them.

In view of the feedback, the Administration would set up working groups to study the funding arrangements, the quality and assessment standards and training needs in consultation with the NGO sector. Mr LEUNG reiterated that the Administration would not insist on adopting the "unit grant" approach without the support of the NGOs, which accounted for the vast majority of direct social welfare services delivered. Members criticised the conclusions on page 32 of the consultancy report which was considered to try to justify the "unit grant" approach by distorting the responses of NGOs. Mr LEUNG emphasised that the Administration has not reached any decision on the funding arrangement which was still under review. There was, however, a general consensus in support of a more flexible and streamlined funding system. He stressed that the Administration would continue consultation with the NGO sector and explore an arrangement mutually acceptable to both parties.Adm

The meeting ended at 10:50 a.m.

LegCo Secretariat

6 December 1996

*-- other commitments

Last Updated on 22 August 1998