LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2139/95-96
[These minutes have been seen
by the Administration]
LegCo Panel on Welfare Services
Minutes of Meeting
Members Present :
held on Friday, 12 July 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
in the Legislative Council Chamber
Hon LI Wah-ming (Chairman)
Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, OBE, JP
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Dr Hon LAW Chi-kwong
Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Members Absent :
|Hon David CHU Yu-lin (Deputy Chairman)||]
|Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee||]
|Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong ||] other commitments
|Hon CHAN Yuen-han||]
|Hon LEE Kai-ming||]
Public Officers Attending :
For Item II - NLCDP
- Mr Carlson K S CHAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
- Mr Carlos LEUNG
- Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Youth & Rehabilitation)
- Mrs June SHERRY
- Chief Social Work Officer (Youth)
- Mr YUEN Man-chung
- District Officer (North)
For Item III - Creation of posts in SWD
- Mr R C WILSON
- Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare
- Mr HO Wing Him
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare) 2
- Mr Ian STRACHAN
- Director of Social Welfare
- Mrs Louise S Y WONG
- Deputy Director of Social Welfare
- Mrs Annette TANG
- Departmental Secretary
For Item IV - Report of the Sub-Committee on Special Education
- Mr PUN Tin-chi
- Member, Board of Education
- Mr CHAN Kwok-kuen
- Member, Board of Education, Sub-Committee on Special Education
- Ms Olivia NIP
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Miss Elieen LAM
- Acting Principal Inspector, Intensive Remedial Service, Education Department
For Item V - Integrated children and youth service
- Mr R C WILSON
- Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare
- Mr HO Wing Him
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare)2
- Mr Carlos LEUNG
- Assistant Director (Youth & Rehabilitation)
- Mrs June SHERRY
- Chief Social Work Officer (Youth)
For Item VI - Application procedures for Lotteries Fund for fitting out premises
- Mr R C WILSON
- Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare
- Mr Paul WONG
- Assistant Director (Subventions)
- Mrs LEUNG Chan Yan-yan
- Chief Social Work Officer (Project)
Staff in Attendance :
- Ms Doris CHAN
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2)4
- Mr Alfred CHAU
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2)4
I. Confirmation of Minutes of Meeting held on 10 May 1996 and Matters Arising
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1830/95-96)
The minutes of the meeting on 10 May 1996 were confirmed.
2 The Chairman reminded members that the next meeting would be held on 15 July 1996 at 2:30 p.m. in the Legislative Council Chamber.
3 Dr LAW Chi-kwong requested and the Chairman agreed to include an item on Progress Report on Working Group on Allied Health Personnel in the next meeting on 15 July 1996.
II. Follow up on Neighbourhood Level Community Development Projects (NLCDP)
4 The Chairman referred to a letter from the Administration to Mr Zachary WONG Wai-yin indicating that there was no plan to extend NLCDP to Interim Housing (IH) and suggested a visit to IH be arranged for members of the Panel towards the end of September, 1996.
5 The Chairman briefed members on the recent visit to Sheung Shui and Fanling on 29 June 1996 and the information note on service provided by Shek Wu Lutheran Community Development Project.
6 Dr LAW thanked the Administration for their assistance in the recent visit, and pointed out that one of the major achievements of NLCDP in rural areas was to inform inhabitants of their rights, to relay services available to them, and to channel their concerns properly. He asked the Administration what services were available to help them apart from NLCDP, and if there was none, what plans the Administration had developed to tackle their problems. In reply, Mr Carlson K S CHAN quoted Ting Ping Shan Tsuen, one of the rural areas without NLCDP, as an example to illustrate that environmental improvements were in progress. He said that a large number of requests for improvement projects were originated from residents direct, or through members of District Board or Regional Council. This was indicative of the fact that many residents were aware of their rights.
7 Dr LAW did not understand why the Administration maintained that residents knew their rights, and added that NLCDP in rural areas was needed to organise those residents in villages such as Tin Ping Shan Tsuen. From the visit, it was obvious that there was a dramatic difference between rural areas with and without NLCDP. The Chairman agreed that residents did not know their rights, and they needed social workers to organise them. Moreover, he argued that Shek Wu San Tsuen had existed for more than 40 years and applications for improvement projects only increased in last few years after NLCDP was approved. He understood that approval was granted to Hong Kong Lutherean Social Service to offer NLCDP to Shek Wu San Tsuen in 1992 when major social services were already available in its vicinity. He considered that most rural areas needed NLCDP, and queried the Administration's rationale of not approving the extension of such service to other rural areas. In response, Mr CHAN explained that in the light of the recent developments in social services and rapid expansion of rural improvement projects, ExCo had decided that NLCDP would not be necessary in other rural areas. As regards the rationale for not including Tin Ping Shan Tsuen when the Shek Wu NLCDP Team was approved, Mr CHAN would check and advise the Panel in due course.
|8 In response to Dr YEUNG Sum's question on the Administration's observations about the difference after NLCDP was introduced to Shek Wu San Tsuen and other villages, Mr YUEN Man-chung opined that there was no significant difference in terms of overall environmental improvement. Mr Carlos LEUNG added that NLCDP contributed to social welfare services in those communities. Regarding requests for environmental improvements, Mr Zachary WONG Wai-yin asked whether liaison officers were redundant since residents might make direct requests to staff of technical departments. Mr YUEN replied liaison officers usually made initial contacts with residents and staff of the technical departments carried out the follow-up work. As liaison officers functioned efficiently to serve their districts, Mr WONG interpreted that Mr YUEN implied social workers would not contribute as much as liaison officers. In reply, Mr YUEN indicated that liaison officers and social workers carried out different functions and work.
9 Referring to the information paper from the Administration on the three major services by the Shek Wu NLCDP Team, the Chairman opined that without NLCDP Teams, those services would not be provided. In response, Mr CHAN said that among the three major services, educating the residents to cast votes was the responsibility of Home Affairs Department (HAD) and other social services would be provided by Social Welfare Department (SWD). According to information provided by HAD, the residents of TPST from time to time submitted their own requests direct to the District Office, as opposed to the residents' claims that they did not know their rights without the help of social workers. The Chairman pointed out that residents of TPST received assistance from social workers serving the Shek Wu NLCDP Team. Social services offered by SWD at centres close to those communities did not provide out-reaching services, not to say regular visits to those villages. Members of the LegCo Council received clear messages through different channels from those communities regarding their need for NLCDP Teams.
10 Mr CHAN clarified the implications of ExCo's decision for the existing NLCDP teams in rural areas. As there were no clearance dates for the service areas of the concerned teams, they would not be disbanded before the review of the two pilot projects in old urban areas. In reply to the Chairman's question as to why the Administration suggested to evaluate NLCDP after a review of two pilot projects in old urban areas, Mr CHAN explained that a large amount of resources was expended on the development of social services and district administration with remarkable results in the last 20 years or so, and therefore there was no need to extend NLCDPs to other parts of rural areas. Dr YEUNG Sum was not satisfied with the Administration in their repetition of the ExCo's decision on NLCDP, and strongly objected to the explanation. He pointed out that since social services in the urban areas far exceeded those in the rural areas, it could be argued that the NLCDP services in urban areas could be terminated as well.
11 Dr LAW Chi-kwong moved the following motion seconded by Dr YEUNG sum and it was passed unanimously:
"When an existing NLCDP Team in a rural area is disbanded, it may opt to continue NLCDP in another rural area which is not served by NLCDP before and needs the service".
|12 The Chairman recommended that the Panel should write to ExCo and the Administration regarding the motion and to express in the letter to ExCo the Panel's dissatisfaction with their decision not to join the visit on 29 June 1996. The Chairman requested and the Administration agreed to arrange a visit for the Panel to inspect IH areas in late September/early October this year.
III. Report of the Sub-committee on Special Education
13 Following a brief introduction by the Chairman, Dr LAW Chi-kwong pointed out that the consultation period of the report was over, but he would nevertheless like to suggest to upgrade the proposed rank for wardens in boarding section with 50 boarders or more from Assistant Social Welfare Officer or Chief Social Work Assistant to Social Welfare Officer or Chief Social Work Assistant. Ms Olivia Nip said that although the consultation period was over, and recommendations of the Board of Education were not yet finalized. Mr PUN Tin-chi and Ms NIP agreed that the Board of Education would consider Dr LAW's suggestion.
14 Responding to Dr YEUNG Sum's concerns about the wastage rates caused by remuneration disparities with the Hospital Authority (HA) of physiotherapists (PTs), occupational therapists (OTs), clinical psychologists (CPs), and educational psychologists (EPs), Ms NIP pointed out that two working groups under HWB and Education and Manpower Branch (EMB) respectively were reviewing the wastage problem. Miss Elieen LAM added that for EPs, a recommendation had been made to offer them the same entry point as CPs, and for those with teacher qualification, two more points would be offered. For PTs and OTs, proposals included the upgrading of their ranks from PT/OT(II) to PT/OT(I). Dr YEUNG supported these recommendations aiming at improving the recruitment and retention of those allied health personnel.
15 To avoid competing with the HA for such staff, Dr John TSE Wing-ling suggested an alternative of arranging secondments of those personnel from the HA. In response, Mr CHAN Kwok-kuen revealed that different options including Dr TSE's suggestion had been explored, but the schools preferred employing their own staff for the benefits of the students and better management of schools because it would promote a sense of belonging and devotion in school activities.
16 Mr LEE Cheuk-yan worried about the implementation of the recommendations in the report by the Administration and enquired the Sub-committee of the following:
- whether a priority list had been compiled in respect of the recommendations;
- whether an estimate of the resources required had been made; and
- whether a time-table had been drawn up for the implementation.
17 In response, Mr CHAN said that as the recommendations involved different levels and time-frames, a priority list would not be appropriate. Mr PUN added that a tentative time-table had been drawn up for some of the recommendations to commence in 1997 and to complete by 2001, subject to the endorsement of those recommendations by Board of Education and the allocation of resources. An estimate of the financial implications of the recommendations was provided at Appendix 10 of the Report.
18 Mr James TIEN Pei-chun said that he was worried that should the HA revise its salary scale in a few years' time, wastage of the allied health personnel would again be a problem. He therefore supported Dr TSE's suggestion that such staff should be seconded from the HA.
19 After summing up the Panel's views on the recommendations of the report, the Chairman asked the Administration to confirm whether bids for funds had been made for the implementation of those suggestions. Ms NIP said that she was pleased to learn that the Panel supported the recommendation of the Report and confirmed that the Administration would bid for funds for implementing some of recommendations in 1997/98 and the rest in different phases.
IV. Proposals for additional directorate posts in the Social Welfare Department
20 The Chairman briefly introduced the subject which was referred to the Panel by the Establishment Sub-Committee. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan asked why the review of the directorate structure was not done by the consultant team studying the Social Welfare Subvention System, and why the Unit Grant proposal would not be applied to the Social Welfare Department (SWD). In reply, Mr Ian STRACHAN said that the Administration did not propose the new structure until there was strong case, and that Administration would solicit views from the welfare sector on the Social Welfare Subvention System. Mr Albert CHAN Wai-yip stated that the creation of directorate posts should be examined from a marco point of view. Members would be reluctant to support such proposals if the Administration continued to reject what members considered to be priority items such as the continuation of NLCDP service.
21 Dr LAW Chi-kwong noted that one of duties of the Deputy Director of Social Welfare was related to the registration of social workers. Since the registration of social workers would be independent of SWD, he asked the Administration to clarify the work involved. Mrs Louise S Y WONG explained that the registration system for social workers would affect the qualifications for appointment of social workers and provide for instituting disciplinary action for breach of code of ethics. As SWD was one of the major employers of social workers, the Department would need to review its appointment criteria, as well as its operational guidelines to staff to ensure that these would be in line with the cirteria for registration and with the code of ethics of the Registration Board to facilitate staff's compliance.
22 Mr LEE pointed out that while he considered that there was a need for an additional Deputy Director post, the discussion of the item should be deferred as it was not yet known whether the Administration would respect the views of members and the welfare sector on the Unit Grant proposal. He therefore invited members to consider a strategy to defer consideration of the request by the Administration to create directorate posts in the Establishment Sub-committee. Regarding this comment, Mr STRACHAN asked members to peruse the information paper for the Finance Committee and reiterated that the Administration had an open mind about the Unit Grant approach of the Social Welfare Subvention System. Dr YEUNG Sum said that he objected to the Unit Grant approach but found it difficult to support Mr LEE's proposal in the light of the four-month extension of the consultation period for the Social Welfare Subvention System and the need to consider the staffing proposal at the last Finance Committee of the current session.
23 As there was no direct relationship between the Social Worker Registration Board and SWD, Dr YEUNG was not convinced of the explanation provided by Mrs Louise WONG. Mr R C WILSON added that apart from the existing duties, the SWD had to face external pressures to carry out extra responsibilities, and there was a need to modify its structure to meet increasing demands. Mr James TIEN Pei-chun indicated his support for the Administration's request for the creation of directorate posts.
24 Referring to Mr LEE Cheuk-yan's proposal, Dr LAW said that he understood that the majority of the social welfare sector was opposed to the Unit Grant recommendation and urged the Administration not to implement it unilaterally. As regards the creation of directorate posts, Dr LAW opined that the Administration was taking up responsibilities which could be done by non-government organizations (NGOs). Mr STRACHAN replied that in the past 6 years, NGOs grew by 47% while SWD only grew by 31%.
|25 As the information paper did not present a strong argument for the creation of directorate posts, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong requested the Administration to submit a supplementary paper to strengthen the presentation. The Chairman asked and Mr WILSON agreed to provide additional information to members of the Establishment Subcommittee.
V. Integrated teams for children and youth services
26 Mr Albert CHAN Wai-yip briefed members on the background of the closure of Fok Loi Children Centre (FLCC), and pointed out that there was no consultation with the public about the closure and little attention was paid to the needs and requests of the parents and children in the area. In response, Mr Carlos LEUNG said that the closure of FLCC represented a deployment of resources to form integrated teams in Sau Mau Ping. There had been consultation with Distrcit Board members and parents. Arrangements had also been made with Group Work Unit of the Princess Alexandra Community Centre and the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups which were located in the vicinity to continue providing similar services to members of FLCC after the latter's closure.
27 Mr CHAN said that he was very disappointed about Mr LEUNG's reply. He pointed out that at least 5000 signatures had been collected in opposition to the closure and based on the fact that three centres providing youth and children services were shut down in the last six years leaving no children centre in the area, he asked the Administration how it proposed to deploy resources to meet the needs of the area. He considered it not advisable to close FLCC because children could visit the centre on their own after school.
28 Mr LEUNG explained that based on the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines, the area should be provided with 1.2 centres but there were 3 centres at present. After the closure of the FLCC, a sub-base of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Group's integrated team would be set up in Wing Lok House of Fuk Loi Estate later this year. Mr Albert CHAN Wai-yip urged that the FLCC should not be closed until the sub-base was set up and that the sub-base should provide children's services.
|29 As a committee member of Federation of Youth Groups, Mr Eric LI Ka-cheung undertook to convey Mr CHAN's request to the Federation for consideration.
VI. Application procedures for Lotteries Fund (LF) for fitting out welfare premises
30 The Chairman observed and Mr Albert CHAN Wai-yip agreed that the average processing time for LF applications was not acceptable and queried why it took so long. Mr CHAN further pointed out that in most cases, NGOs had to pay rental charges for the premises while waiting for approval of their LF applications and asked the Administration how it could assist NGOs in this regard. In reply, Mr Paul WONG explained that the LF applications had to be processed carefully because public money was involved. In processing applications, SWD staff would conduct site visits and very often the advice of other government departments, such as the Architectural Services Department (Arch SD), would have to be sought. For urgent cases, verbal approval of LF applications might be given when needed. Mr WONG pointed out that in 1995/96, the number of applications processed had increased to over a thousand but the manpower to handle applications had remained more or less the same. He added that for new centres in public housing estates, rent was charged upon handing over of premises for fitting-out and normally a contractor would need four to six months to complete the works. Since rent for the decoration period would be reimbursed in full to the NGOs, he did not see any problem in this regard.
31 Mr CHAN said that the problem of paying rental charges for vacant premises was a concern and it was not acceptable to waste tax-payers' money in this respect. He urged SWD to process those applications on a priority basis. In response, Mr WONG said that there were special arrangements which encouraged NGOs to entrust their fitting-out work to Arch SD in which case the premises would be handed over to them after works had been completed. As this arrangement would save more time than awaiting an NGO to appoint an Authorised Person to carry out the works, it had greatly helped to reduce the rent paid for the fitting-out period.
32 On the problem of manpower, Mr WONG told the Panel that two ASWOs would be deployed to process LF applications. He further pointed out that as the number of applications increased tremendously in recent years, this had created a big backlog. The Chairman urged and Mr WONG agreed to make special arrangement for temporary manpower to clear the backlog.
|33 As regards Dr YEUNG Sum's request to reduce the average processing time to four months , Mr WONG said that he could not make a firm commitment but agreed to improve as far as possible. The Chairman requested the Administration to submit quarterly reports to the Panel regarding the backlog and the average processing time of applications and the first one would be due in October 1996. Mr CHAN added that as even the processing time for applications for restaurants licences under the Urban Council could be reduced, the SWD should review its mode of operation.
VII. Any Other Business
|34 The Chairman requested and Mr Wilson agreed to provide the Progress Report of Working Group on Allied Health Personnel for discussion at the next Panel meeting on 15 July 1995.
35 The next meeting would be held on 15 July 1996 at 2:30 p.m. in the Legislative Council Chamber.
36 The meeting ended at 1:00 p.m.
19 September 1996
Last Updated on 24 August 1998