Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)790
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/WS

Panel on Welfare Services

Minutes of meeting
held on Thursday, 9 October 1997 at 8:00 am
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon WONG Siu-yee (Chairman)
Hon CHAN Choi-hi (Deputy Chairman)
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon Mrs Peggy LAM, JP
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon LO Suk-ching
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Members attending :
Hon IP Kwok-him
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Members absent :

Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP

Public officers attending :

Mrs Katherine FOK, JP
Secretary for Health and Welfare

Dr Margaret CHAN, JP
Director of Health

Mr Andrew LEUNG, JP
Director of Social Welfare

Mrs Louise WONG, JP
Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Administration)

Mrs Patricia CHU
Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Services)

Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare(1)(Acting)

Mr HO Wing-him
Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare

Mr Robin GILL
Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare (3)

Ms Miranda CHIU
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare

Miss Victoria TANG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health Welfare(2)

Ms Lorna WONG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare
(Elderly Services)

Mr Augustine CHOI
Commissioner for Rehabilitation

Mr Stephen POON
Deputy Director of Housing/Works

Clerk in attendance :

Ms Doris CHAN
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 4

Staff in attendance :

Mrs Justina LAM
Assistant Secretary General 2

Ms Joanne MAK
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)4

I. Briefing by the Secretary for Health and Welfare on the Chief Executive's Policy Address

Caring for the elderly

1.The Secretary for Health and Welfare (SHW) said that the objective of the Health and Welfare Bureau (the Bureau) in the provision of services for the elderly was to foster a sense of security, belonging and worthiness amongst them. The Bureau appreciated that financial security was an important factor for the elderly to enjoy a comfortable and dignified old age. Financial security in old age should normally be provided through personal savings, contributions from family and/or contributory retirement schemes. A study commissioned by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) this year indicated that a percentage of the elderly population had to rely on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) as their main source of income and that a proportion of the elderly CSSA recipients spent their money, in addition to meeting their basic needs, on items like buying gifts, eating out, medical consultations, social interaction, buying cigarettes and so on. Noting the results of the survey and in line with the government's policy to encourage the elderly to continue to have a socially active life after their retirement, the Administration decided to provide additional financial assistance to the elderly CSSA recipients to help them meet the expenses for participating in social and recreational activities.

2. SHW said that starting from 1 April 1998, the annual Chinese New Year Grant and Social Recreation Activities Grant for the elderly under the CSSA Scheme would be combined and increased substantially from an annual amount of $550 to a monthly payment of $380. SHW explained that this arrangement was proposed with a view to giving the elderly CSSA recipients greater flexibility in the use of the grants having regard to their spending pattern as found in the recent survey study. The arrangement was also in line with the requests of many elderly CSSA recipients who wanted the two grants to be issued on a monthly basis so that they could spend the money anytime they wanted.

3.SHW said that after enhancement of the basic rate, the following subsidies under the CSSA Scheme would still be available for eligible elderly CSSA recipients -

  1. rental subsidies;

  2. free medical and health care provided by the public hospitals and clinics; and

  3. other special grants to meet the various special needs of the elderly CSSA recipients.

SHW said that after April 1998 an elderly single person and an elderly couple would receive average monthly payments of $3,670 and $5,980 respectively as a result of the real increases announced in the Policy Address. The amounts would be further adjusted to take into account inflation.

4. SHW said that in order to instill a sense of belonging, the Bureau would render various support services to help elderly people to live at home for as long as possible and to encourage family support in caring for them. Such services to be provided in 1998-99 included -

  1. setting up 12 visiting health teams and 12 Elderly Health Centres with integrated services in 1998-99, and another six such teams and Centres in 1999-2000 to provide preventive, promotive and curative medical services to the elderly;

  2. establishing 15 additional home help teams to provide assistance to the elderly; and

  3. setting up two Carers’ Support and Resource Centres to provide support and training to carers of the elderly.

5. SHW said that the Bureau would also substantially increase the supply and improve the quality of subvented residential care services in the next few years in the following ways -

  1. increasing the number of subvented residential care places;

  2. enhancing the Bought Place Scheme to increase the supply of residential care places;

  3. setting up five additional infirmaries which would provide about 7,000 places for the vulnerable elderly;

  4. introducing a new Dementia Supplement for subvented residential care homes;

  5. training up 270 enrolled nurses in 1998-2000 to serve in residential care homes; and

  6. asking the Elderly Commission to assess the demand for residential care services.

7.SHW informed members that the Housing Authority had pledged to provide 30,000 additional public rental flats for the elderly by 2002. Furthermore, the Hong Kong Housing Society would introduce a new "Senior Citizens Residence Scheme" by constructing flats in the urban area for lease for life to the elderly. Two such pilot schemes would be completed by 2001 to provide about 500 flats.

8. To foster a sense of worthiness amongst the elderly, SHW said that the Bureau would set up 36 integrated teams in multi-service centres for the elderly and provide an Elderly Volunteer Programme to encourage the elderly to contribute and participate as active members of the community. Additional Social Centres for the Elderly would also be set up to meet the social and recreational needs of the elderly.

9. SHW said that the Bureau also pledged to provide welfare services to meet the needs of people with a disability and to help children/young people at risk. For example, the Bureau would seek to improve the provision of school social work service, enhance the Community Service Orders Scheme, establish two youth mobile teams as a pilot project to help young night-drifters.

10. SHW added that another programme area of the Bureau was to facilitate integration of new arrivals from the Mainland into the local community by providing post-migration services to them.

Questions by members

10. At the Chairman's request, SHW agreed to provide information on the estimated budget for the implementation of all the new service commitments in the welfare policy area.

11. In response to Mr Howard YOUNG's enquiry, SHW explained that the new arrangement of incorporating the annual Chinese New Year Grant and Social Recreation Activities Grant into the basic monthly payment was made in response to the requests of many elderly CSSA recipients who wanted to have more flexibility in the use of the grants. SHW said that after enhancement of the monthly payment, all elderly CSSA recipients would receive $380 more in their basic payment. SHW added that the standard monthly rate for each category of CSSA recipients was adjusted annually to take into account the inflation rate. In response to Mr Howard YOUNG's further enquiry, SHW said that the additional monthly amount of $380 would also be issued to those who had joined the Portable Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (PCSSA) Scheme and, whenever adjustment was made to the standard rate, the elderly CSSA recipients residing in Guangdong Province would enjoy the same increase in amount brought about by the adjustment.

12. Mrs Peggy LAM felt that the Chinese New Year was a very important festival to the elderly who needed more money to spend at that time. She therefore requested the Administration to consider giving an annual Chinese New Year Grant on top of the additional monthly payment of $380. SHW said that the issue had been thoroughly considered. She would nevertheless deliberate further on this request.

13. Mrs Peggy LAM commented that the current rate of disregarded income of $1,720 was too low which would discourage CSSA recipients from taking up jobs because any earnings in excess of $1,720 would be deducted from the CSSA payments. She also criticized the age criterion of 30 and above for CSSA recipients to receive employees retraining unreasonable. She considered that female CSSA recipients aged below 30 should also be allowed to receive retraining provided that they had the incentive to work. SHW agreed to include the subjects under the CSSA review to be conducted in 1998.

14. Mr Frederick FUNG Kin-kee referred to the review on the scope and the administration of the CSSA Scheme to be conducted by the Bureau in 1998 and asked whether it would duplicate the CSSA review conducted by Professor CHOW Wing-sun. In response, SHW explained that there were two CSSA studies conducted by Professor CHOW and the one on the expenditure pattern of the elderly CSSA recipients was already completed. He was now conducting another study on the non-CSSA elderly recipients. SHW said that the review to be conducted by the Bureau had a different focus, which would make recommendations on how those on CSSA could be encouraged and helped to re-join the workforce and on other matters relating to the administration of the Scheme. The Director of Social Welfare (D(SW)) added that in deciding to increase the monthly payment by $380, the Administration had studied the findings of the first CSSA study conducted by Professor CHOW.

15. Mr LO Suk-ching enquired about the current position in the implementation of the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF). In response, SHW said she understood that the subsidiary legislation on MPF would be submitted shortly to the Provisional Legislative Council for scrutiny.

16. Miss CHAN Yuen-han requested the Administration to provide the additional monthly payment of $380 to the elderly CSSA recipients immediately. She also asked the Administration to respond to the requests made earlier to increase the monthly standard rate of CSSA to at least $3,000 and to implement an old age pension scheme. In response, SHW explained that the increase of $380 was a new policy for 1998-99 which had to be funded by the budget approved for 1998-99. Due to running out of time, the Chairman requested SHW to respond to the other two requests on another occasion.

17. Mr LEE Kai-ming enquired and D(SW) answered that the review on the asset limit for application of CSSA had yet to be completed pending Professor CHOW Wing-sun's survey on the non-CSSA elderly recipients. Responding to Mr LEE's further enquiry on the PCSSA Scheme, D(SW) explained that the requirement for an elderly recipient to have received CSSA continuously for a period of not less than three years immediately before moving to the Mainland sought to establish that the elderly persons concerned were long-term CSSA recipients. The requirement prevented elderly Hong Kong residents who had already moved to the Mainland from abusing the Scheme by returning briefly to Hong Kong to sign up for CSSA and then returning immediately to China. On the possibility of relaxing the residence period, D(SW) said that this would be considered when a review of the PCSSA Scheme was conducted later.

18.Ms CHOY So-yuk enquired whether the Administration would consider extending the PCSSA Scheme to other provinces of the Mainland and the schedule of the implementation. In response, D(SW) explained that the Administration had chosen Guangdong province as a starting point of this scheme and would only consider extending the Scheme to other provinces after the Guangdong Scheme had time to prove its success. D(SW) said that it was not advisable to proceed too hastily to extend the Scheme to other provinces where the necessary support services (such as medical and residential care) had yet to be put in place.

19. Ms CHOY So-yuk considered that there were no concrete measures in the new policy programme on welfare to address the problems faced by women and their needs. She further enquired about the Administration's policy on the provision of day nursery places, and any concrete measures it had to assist the mothers of single parent families and divorced women in collecting maintenance payments. In response, the Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Services) (DD(S)) said that there had been a large increase in the provision of child care centre places over the past few years. She said that the Administration would be able to meet the overall target by 2000. She briefed members on the newly introduced Child Care Centre (Amendment) Ordinance 1997, and said that the Administration had provided supports to assist the formation of mutual help child care groups in various districts to cater for the need for occasional child care service. Ms CHOY So-yuk opined that the services provided by the Administration were not innovative. Due to inadequate time for discussion, the Chairman suggested that Ms CHOY might seek further clarification and information after the meeting.

20. Mr CHAN Choi-hi commented that the policy programme had not addressed the problem of poverty nor provided any concrete measures to shorten the widening gap between the rich and the poor. He urged the Administration to draw a poverty line and formulate a policy to help those living below the poverty line.

21. The meeting ended at 8:45 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat

24 December 1997