Legislative Council
Panel on Welfare Services Meeting on 25 January 1999
Information Paper on Measures taken under the social networking mechanism during cold spells to assist the vulnerable single elderly


This paper sets out the measures under the social networking mechanism during cold spells to assist the vulnerable single elderly.

Social networking mechanism

2. As a continuation of the Social Networking for the Elderly Project the experimental period of which concluded in September last year, the Government has set up Support Teams in Multi-service Centres for the Elderly (M/Es) to operate a social networking mechanism for the elderly. So far, 31 Support Teams have been formed. Another five are planned between now and 2001. The Support Teams recruit, train and mobilise volunteers for visits to vulnerable single elderly people and manage the referral of elderly people for other services.

Measures under the social networking mechanism during cold spells

3. Every year when the cold season approaches, Social Welfare Department (SWD) would keep close contact with M/Es to urge them to assist the elderly to keep warm and safe. Since December 1998, SWD has thrice issued reminder letters to the M/Es.

4. SWD and Department of Health (DH) would also publicise, through the mass media, how families should take care of their elderly during cold spells, to prevent a drop in body temperature through suitable clothing and intake of food. In addition, SWD would appeal to members of the public to watch out for single elderly people living in their neighbourhood and refer the vulnerable elderly to them through the departmental telephone hotline (2343 2255).

5. During the passage of a cold spell, the Support Teams would mobilise volunteers to contact all elderly people on their contact lists, either through telephone or home visits. Where necessary, the volunteers would report back to the Support Teams to refer elderly people in need for services, e.g. medical attention, health services, home help, etc.

The cold spell in mid January 1999

6. The first cold spell this winter occurred between 11 and 17 January 1999. On 11 January 1999, SWD convened a meeting with all 31 Support Teams to urge them to mobilise volunteers to visit as many elderly people as possible on their contact lists.

7. During that week, the volunteers made a total of 13,984 contacts with 10,102 elderly people. This covers most of the vulnerable elderly identified.

8. The SWD hotline has received 293 calls from concerned members of the public referring cases for follow-up action.

9. During the current cold spell, social Welfare Department and Support Teams have distributed 1 000 cotton quilts to elderly people who live by themselves. A total of 566 blankets had also been distributed by SWD to the elderly and other people in need. These are in addition to the 18,000 sets of woollen gloves and scarves distributed to elderly people in the territory through the 31 Support Teams since November 1998.

Emergency Alarm Systems

10. Elderly CSSA recipients requiring financial help to install emergency alarm systems can apply to SWD for a special grant. So far, 4,600 elderly people have installed emergency alarm bells in their homes with financial assistance from SWD. Another 800 elderly people living in public rental housing have also installed emergency alarm systems.

Looking ahead

11. Since 1996, the social networking mechanism has identified some 14,600 vulnerable elderly living alone. To provide a more comprehensive social networking service for these elderly, the Health and Welfare Bureau would, in consultation with government departments concerned, explore the possibility of:

  • increasing volunteer manpower for contacts with these elderly during cold spells. SWD would consider the possibility of encouraging participants in other volunteer programmes to take part in social networking visits during cold spells;

  • strengthening the interface between public medical facilities, such as general out-patient clinics, Elderly Health Centres, etc. and the social networking mechanism. Findings of a consultancy study have revealed that elderly people paid more visits to doctors. Medical facilities could be developed into a useful source of referral of elderly people for networking services;

  • involving private medical practitioners in the social networking referral system. Private medical practitioners are also a useful source of referral of elderly people for social networking. SWD would consider approaching the Hong Kong Medical Association and the Estate Doctors Association for their assistance, where feasible; and

  • public education programmes on caring for the elderly during cold spells. SWD and DH would consider stepping up, through different media, public education on keeping the elderly healthy during cold spells.
Health and Welfare Bureau
20 January 1999