For meeting on
18 February 1998
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Welfare Services
A Supplementary Information Note on Shortage of Social Security Assistants and Effect on the Quality of Social Security Services
On 14 January 1998, the PLC Panel on Welfare Services discussed the shortage of social security assistants and its effect on the quality of social security services. Members of the Panel decided to examine this issue further at the next meeting.
2. This paper provides members with supplementary information concerning the investigation procedures regarding Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) applications, the the plan for improving the staffing situation of SSFUs and measures to enhance the service quality of social security services.
Investigation procedures regarding CSSA applications
3. Upon receipt of an CSSA application, a Senior Social Security Assistant (SSSA) of a Social Security Field Unit (SSFU) will conduct an investigation through office interview /home visit to the applicant. The financial and other conditions of the applicant and his/her family members will be examined. The applicant's statement must be supported by documentary proof such as salary statement, medical report, rental and school fee receipts, etc. If necessary, the SSSA will also contact the employer, relatives, landlord and school authority for verification on the information provided by the applicant. The applicant makes a declaration that he/she is providing genuine information and is given to understand that knowingly or wilfully making any false statement or withholding any information for the purpose of obtaining CSSA payment will render him/her liable to prosecution.
4. When the investigation is completed, the SSSA will assess the resources and needs of the applicant and submit the case to either a Social Security Officer I (SSOI) or a Social Security Officer II (SSOII) for checking and authorization. While the payment of simple cases such as single person elderly or ill health cases are authorized by a SSOII, cases which are more complicated in nature such as family and unemployment cases will be authorized by a more senior officer, the SSOI. Normally, payment for a new application will be authorized for a period of 6 months and case review will be conducted before the expiry of this period to check whether there have been changes in the recipient's circumstances and to determine whether CSSA payment should be continued.
5. When conducting investigation of new CSSA applications and case reviews, staff are usually required to conduct home visits as one of the means to verify customers' circumstances.
Existing Work Easement Measures
6. Owing to shortage of staff and the need to alleviate the work pressure of frontline staff, the following measures have been introduced since
1 August 1997 :-
- home visits to 90% of CSSA applications and review cases suspended; and
- payment to 90% CSSA elderly cases extended automatically for 6 months.
Creation of Additional Posts of the Social Security Assistant Grade in SSFUs
7. To improve the staffing situation of SSFUs, resources have been secured for creating more than 100 additional SSSA and SSA (Social Security Assistant) posts in 1998/99. Preparatory work for creation of such posts such as identifying suitable candidates from those being wait-listed for appointment and launching a new trenche of recruitment exercise is underway. We intend to create the additional posts in two phases. About 40% of the new posts will be created by 1 April 1998 and the remainder in June 1998.
Measures to Enhance the Service Quality of Social Security Services
8. With the creation of additional posts, SWD will
- strengthen the investigation of suspected fraud cases by creating an additional Special Investigation Team (SIT);
- improve the manpower of the existing SIT so as to conduct 500 more random checks per month through home visits to single parent, unemployment and low earning CSSA cases as the circumstances of these cases are comparatively more unstable and thus are likely to merit the use of the investigation expertise of the SIT;
- deploy the SSAs of SSFUs to conduct 2,400 more random checks on single elderly CSSA customers per month by way of home visits. Apart from checking the financial circumstances of these elderly recipients, staff will also take the opportunity to introduce the special grants under CSSA to the aged customers and identify their other welfare needs; and
- the Internal Committee on Fraud Cases will continue to recommend prosecution of fraud cases whenever appropriate.
9. Besides strengthening the Department's capacity in fraud prevention and investigation, the implementation of the above measures will also improve its customer service. For instance, by conducting more home visits, the elderly recipients financial and other welfare needs can be better served.
10. SWD will continue to monitor closely the workload of SSFUs, identify resources to create more posts to meet increase in service demand and explore means to further streamline work procedures for improvement on service delivery.
Social Welfare Department