Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)559
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and
cleared with the Chairman)

Ref : CB2/PL/WS

Panel on Welfare Services

Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 12 September 1997 at 10:45 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon WONG Siu-yee (Chairman)
Hon CHAN Choi-hi (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon Mrs Peggy LAM, JP
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon LO Suk-ching
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Allen LEE, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Public officers attending :

Item III

Mr HO Wing-him
Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare (2)

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

Ms Miranda CHIU
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare

Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Social Security)

Items IV and V

Mr HO Wing-him
Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare (2)

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

Ms Lorna WONG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare

Mrs Patricia CHU
Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Services)

Mrs Eliza LEUNG
Assistant Director of Social Welfare
(Elderly and Medical Social Services)

Items VI and VII

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

Ms Miranda CHIU
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare

Mrs Patricia CHU
Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Services)

Miss Theresa WONG
Acting Assistant Director of Social Welfare
(Family and Child Welfare)

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

Mrs Patricia CHU
Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Services)

Clerk in attendance :

Ms Doris CHAN
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 4

Staff in attendance :

Ms Joanne MAK
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 4

I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting held on 22 July 1997 and matters arising
(PLC Paper No. CB(2)153)

The minutes of the meeting held on 22 July 1997 were confirmed.

Visit to welfare facilities on 23 September 1997

2.The Chairman briefed members on the arrangements made by the Administration for a visit to welfare facilities on 23 September 1997; and informed members that a circular would be issued shortly to invite members' participation.Clerk

II.Date of next meeting and items for discussion

3.Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next meeting scheduled for 3 October 1997 at 10:45 am. -

  1. People living below the poverty line; and

  2. Old age pension.

4.Mr LEE Kai-ming and Mrs Elsie TU suggested to discuss respectively the following two items -

  1. Neighbourhood Level Community Development Projects (NLCDPs); and

  2. Social problems caused by separation of children from their mothers who had no right of abode in Hong Kong.

Members agreed that item (a) would not be discussed until the report to be completed by the Review Group on Pilot NLCDPs was provided to the Panel. As for item (b), the Chairman requested the Administration to provide an information paper on the subject. Members would further decide whether or not to discuss the item. Adm

5.Members were of the view that there should not be too many agenda items for each meeting in order to allow adequate time for discussion. The Chairman requested the Administration to provide information papers to the Panel one week before the meeting to allow adequate time for members to study the contents. Mr HO Wing-him agreed to take note of the request.Adm

III.Comprehensive Social Security Assistance for the Elderly

6.Mr HO Wing-him informed members that the Administration had commissioned the University of Hong Kong (HKU) to conduct a study on elderly recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). The preliminary findings of the survey were as follows -

  1. some 10% of the elderly population were CSSA recipients;

  2. 95% of the elderly CSSA recipients relied on CSSA as their main source of income; and

  3. the majority of the elderly CSSA recipients spent some of their money on items like buying gifts, soup ingredients, social interaction, eating out and so on which had not been included as basic needs under the CSSA Scheme.

7.Mr HO Wing-him explained that since CSSA was a non-contributory scheme, the level of CSSA payment was only to cater for recipients' basic needs. However, the Administration had noted from the result of the survey that additional assistance was required by the elderly CSSA recipients to meet their psycho-social needs. Therefore, the Health and Welfare Bureau (HWB) had already recommended to the Elderly Commission that additional assistance should be made available to meet the elderly CSSA recipients' needs in these aspects. Mr HO stressed that the Administration maintained the view that able-bodied adults should work to support themselves and their families. Therefore, the Administration was of the view that the proposed additional assistance should not be rendered to non-elderly CSSA recipients. As for the actual amount of the proposed assistance, Mr HO said that it had yet to be decided.

8.At the Chairman's request, Mr HO agreed to provide to the Panel the paper presented to the Elderly Commission setting out the preliminary findings of the study on elderly recipients of CSSA and the Administration's deliberations on the way forward.Adm

(Post-meeting note : the requested paper was issued under PLC Paper No. CB(2)369 on 24 September 1997.)

IV.Setting up of the Elderly Commission
(Paper No. CB(2)285(01))

9.Mr HO Wing-him briefed members that the Elderly Commission, set up at the end of July 1997, was responsible for advising the Government on the formulation of a comprehensive policy for the elderly, co-ordinating the planning of various programmes and services for the elderly and monitoring the implementation of the relevant policies. He pointed out that matters relating to the care, housing, financial security, health and medical, psychological, employment and recreational needs of the elderly were the concerns of the Elderly Commission. He revealed that the Elderly Commission had so far studied the CSSA and the Senior Citizen Card Schemes.

10.In response to Mr LAU Kong-wah's enquiry, Mr HO quoted the example of the Education Commission which had a similar wide scope of terms of reference as that of the Elderly Commission.

V.Implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group on Care for the Elderly
(Paper No. CB(2)285(02))

11.Ms Lorna WONG informed members that a Working Group on Care for the Elderly (the Working Group) chaired by the then Secretary for Health and Welfare was set up in November 1993 to review the services for the elderly and to advise on the formulation of a strategy for the development of future policies and services in this area. The Working Group published a report in August 1994 containing more than 70 recommendations. Ms WONG said that the Government had accepted all the recommendations of the Working Group and allocated the financial resources required to implement them.

12.Ms Lorna WONG said that the coverage of the Working Group Report was comprehensive with emphases on residential service and community support service required for the elderly. On the community support service, the Working Group's recommendations and the progress of implementation were as follows -

  1. It was recommended that 12 additional home help teams should be provided in the next few years. Now nine home help teams were in place with the remaining teams to be set up by 1998/99.

  2. Before 1994, most social centres for the elderly had set a limit to the number of members they would admit. With additional staff provided, these centres were now operating on an open membership basis.

  3. In accordance with the Working Group's recommendation, improved transport service had been provided to the elderly in need to facilitate their travelling to and from the day care centres. Enrollment rate of these centres had also generally increased.

  4. The Working Group recommended that volunteer programmes to encourage the elderly to become volunteers should be run as experimental projects. Such programmes had been implemented in eight multi-service centres for the elderly with satisfactory results.

13.On residential service for the elderly, the Working Group's recommendations and the progress of implementation were as follows -

  1. A computerized central waiting list covering all types of residential care institutions was recommended to improve the co-ordination of the service. $12 million had subsequently been granted by the Finance Committee to establish the computerized system and the integrated list would be in place in late 1997.

  2. It was recommended that supplements should be provided to care-and-attention homes and nursing homes so that they could employ extra health care staff to look after residents whose health conditions had deteriorated. In 1997/98, a total of $26.51 million had been allocated to the institutions for this purpose.

  3. Courses had been organized to train 1,190 health workers so that private homes for the elderly could comply with the staffing requirements of the new legislation regulating residential services for the elderly.

  4. It was recommended that a study should be conducted on the residential care and community support needs of the elderly in Hong Kong. As a result, the Government appointed Deloitte and Touche Consulting Group in May 1996 to conduct the study which was now near completion. The Administration would report the findings to the Panel in due course.

14.Responding to Mr HUI Yin-fat's enquiry, Ms Lorna WONG explained that there would be technical difficulties to assess and quantify the improvements brought about by the computerized waiting list in the short term. However, she undertook to provide detailed information on the improvements achieved in due course. Adm

15.With regard to the open membership of the social centres for the elderly, Mr TAM Yiu-chung pointed out that many of these centres had practical problems in coping with the large increase in the number of members. He said that many of them were lacking in space to provide adequate facilities for their members. Moreover, some of the centres were much in need of renovation and some were not even provided with air-conditioning. He had also heard that some centres complained of inadequate subsidies from the Government. In response, Mr HO Wing-him said the Administration would continue to monitor the standard of the service and seek improvement as far as resources allowed.

16.Mr HUI Yin-fat referred to para. 6(b) of the Administration's paper and expressed doubt on the adequacy of the Elderly Services Development Fund (the Fund) which was only $200 million in covering the required land and construction costs for the development of six elderly homes. He enquired if additional funds would be provided by the Government in case more applications for the Fund were received. In response, Mrs Eliza LEUNG revealed that the six elderly homes which applied for the Fund for different purposes were estimated to use up about $150 million only because part of the required costs would be borne by the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concerned.

17.As to why the Administration would only approve one application for the Fund by late 1997, Mrs Eliza LEUNG explained that it was because the six applications received all involved the development of care-and-attention homes which took on average 57 months to complete the planning, site-securing and construction processes. Mrs LEUNG also informed members that the Administration had stepped up publicity of the Fund to encourage development of a greater variety of elderly services other than care and attention homes.

18.In response to Mr HUI Yin-fat's enquiry, Mrs LEUNG disclosed that out of the 400-plus private elderly homes, only about 160 of them had applied for assistance under the Financial Assistance Scheme for improvement measures to comply with the safety and structural requirements of the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Regulation. She said that it might be because those private homes which had reached the statutory safety standards had less incentive to apply for the financial assistance as the operators concerned had to contribute 40% of the improvement costs. Nevertheless, the Administration would encourage promotion of standard amongst all existing private homes by inviting them to apply for the funds and to improve their services as far as possible. She was pleased to note that the number of approved applications had been increasing steadily. Mrs LEUNG pointed out that it was the Administration's target that no private eldery home would be allowed to operate without a licence by October 1999.

19.Mr LAU Kong-wah asked for concrete details of how the Administration would tighten its control on the safety standards of the private elderly homes. He also enquired what measures the Administration would take to accommodate the elderly people from the private homes which were closed down due to failure to comply with the statutory safety requirements. In response, Mr HO Wing-him referred to the reply of the Secretary for Health and Welfare given at an earlier Provisional Legislative Council meeting in response to a Member's question and explained that there were many practical problems for the existing private elderly homes to tackle to fully comply with the licensing requirements. However, Mr HO assured that the Social Welfare Department (SWD) would try every possible way to help and encourage the private homes to apply for the necessary resources and to make due improvements. He revealed that HWB had explored some ways other than the Financial Assistance Scheme to help private homes making improvements. The proposed ways would be discussed by the Elderly Commission.

20.Mr TAM Yiu-chung agreed that there were many practical problems faced by the private elderly homes in trying to comply with the licensing requirements. For example, some of them were located at premises which were structurally unsuitable for running elderly homes. He suggested that the Government should explore converting the ground floor empty bays of public rental housing blocks for use as elderly homes.Adm

21.Mr YEUNG Yiu-chung queried whether it was appropriate for the Government to provide direct subsidies to the private elderly homes. He took the view that the Government should grant loans to the private homes instead. In reply, Ms Lorna WONG explained that the Working Group preferred to giving subsidies to the private homes because of the lesser administrative cost involved. In addition, she pointed out that the Government only subsidized 60% of the required cost for a private home to make improvement while the operator concerned had to bear 40% of the cost.

22.Miss CHAN Yuen-han enquired about the relationship between the Working Group and the Elderly Commission. In reply, Mr HO Wing-him explained that the Working Group was dissolved in 1994 after publishing its report. At present, the Elderly Commission was the only setup comprising both official and non-official representatives to advise the Government on policy concerning the elderly. As for the Elderly Services Division in HWB, Mr HO explained that it was tasked to co-ordinate policy on health and welfare services for the elderly, while the Elderly Commission would look at a wider spectrum of the needs and interests of the elderly which would involve policy bureaux other than HWB.

23.Mrs Eliza LEUNG agreed with Miss CHAN Yuen-han that outreach service for the elderly was very important and explained that the Administration had implemented the following -

  1. two Volunteer Workers Programmes and eight Older Volunteers Programmes had been implemented in ten multi-service centres for the elderly on an experimental basis in the past two years. In view of the great success of the programmes, SWD would continue with them; and

  2. a two-year Social Networking for the Elderly Scheme had been implemented for the elderly since October 1996 with 13,000 needy elderly recruited under the scheme. Among them, 5,000-plus elderly had been identified as priority cases. 4,000-plus volunteers had participated providing outreach services for the elderly.

Mr HO Wing-him supplemented that the home help teams as explained in para. 12(a) were also available to cater for the care needs of the elderly.

24.Mr CHAN Choi-hi was dissatisfied with the Administration's reply that the above mentioned services were considered as the formal outreach services for the elderly. Mr HUI Yin-fat pointed out that the outreach service for the elderly was initiated and first run by NGOs on an experimental basis. It was accepted by the Government two years ago but it had subvented only two teams. He enquired about the Administration's onward plan in subsidizing the service. Mr CHAN Choi-hi also enquired about what measures the Administration would take in view of the high suicide rate among the elderly persons in Hong Kong. Due to running out of time for discussion, the Chairman requested the Administration to provide the requested information in the form of a written reply.Adm

VI.Home help service
(Papers Nos. CB(2)186(01) and CB(2)285(03))

25.At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr CHAN Choi-hi briefed members on the problems he had observed with the existing home help service and proposed the following -

  1. to resolve problems caused by suspension of meal delivery service by some NGOs when Typhoon Signal No. 8 was hoisted or when the Rainstorm Black Warning was in force; and

  2. to provide additional resources to ensure that meal delivery service was maintained for needy clients at all times. Mr CHAN further suggested that the Administration should consider requesting neighbours of the clients to help providing meal preparation/delivery services for the clients during inclement weather. In return, the Administration should provide an honorarium for the participating neighbours.

In response, Miss Theresa WONG pointed out that a special allowance was being provided to each home help team, and NGOs were given full discretion to use the allowance as an honorarium for neighbours or home helpers for providing meal services on Sundays, public holidays and during inclement weather.

26.Miss Theresa WONG further assured that no one would suffer from starvation due to suspension of the meal delivery service. She explained that home helpers made sure to keep some food at their clients' homes to ensure that they would have a supply of food under all circumstances. The home helpers also checked constantly the expiry date of the food and replenish it whenever necessary. Miss WONG said that the meal delivery service was maintained when Typhoon Signal No. 3 was hoisted. When it was announced that Typhoon Signal No. 8 would be hoisted soon, home helpers would deliver meals to the clients earlier and request the neighbours of the clients to help replenishing the food for the clients if required. In addition, home helpers would maintain contacts with the elderly clients by phone to ensure that they had adequate food to eat at home. She pointed out that SWD was closely monitoring home help service and co-ordinating its development.

27.Mr HUI Yin-fat said that the fact that no relief home helpers were available on Sundays and public holidays had caused disruption to the service when home helpers were unwilling to work on those days. He also criticized that the policy of adding annually five additional home help teams during 1997/98 to 1998/99 was inadequate to cope with the rapid ageing population. Mr CHAN Choi-hi also doubted whether the forecast done in 1991 recommending that 132 home help teams be provided by 1998/99 was realistic in meeting the actual needs. They both requested the Administration to improve the service by allocating more resources to it. In response, Miss Theresa WONG informed members that, in view of growing demand for home help service, a joint study was being conducted by SWD and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) to re-estimate the demands for the service.

28.Mr TAM Yiu-chung considered that the Administration should promote further the arrangement of engaging neighbours to help providing meal preparation/delivery services for the clients. He believed that neighbours were in a better place than home helpers to provide warmer food due to travelling time saved. Moreover, a closer relationship might be built up between neighbours and the clients by increasing their contacts. The Administration took note of the request.Adm

VII.Welfare services for new arrivals from the Mainland
(Paper No. CB(2)285(04))

29.Miss Theresa WONG briefed members that new arrivals, like ordinary citizens in Hong Kong, had access to the full range of social welfare services available -

  1. services provided by the Family Services Centres (FSCs) run by SWD and NGOs;

  2. financial assistance under CSSA. In warranted situation, the Director of Social Welfare could waive the one-year residence requirement under CSSA;

  3. housing assistance. In warranted situation, the seven year residence requirement could be waived for new arrivals with genuine social or medical grounds when they were considered for compassionate rehousing;

  4. services provided by child care centres; and

  5. family education programmes and group work services provided by SWD and NGOs.

30.Miss WONG said that SWD had stepped up publicity of FSCs to encourage new arrivals seeking assistance from them; and information on the abovesaid welfare services was made available at FSCs for new arrivals. For child care centres, SWD had adjusted their planning ratios in districts with a larger population of new arrivals. Miss WONG further elaborated that SWD had closely co-operated with NGOs in organizing programmes in children and youth centres to help new arrival children integrate into the society.

31.Miss WONG added that a range of dedicated services was also made available by the Hong Kong Branch of the International Social Service (ISS-HK) for new arrivals -

  1. enquiry and information services provided by Travellers' Aid Desks set up at Hung Hom railway station and the Tsim Sha Tsui Office of the Immigration Department;

  2. orientation programmes organized by ISS - HK for new arrivals;

  3. Cantonese classes for non-Cantonese speaking new arrivals; and

  4. counselling services provided for new arrivals.

32.Miss WONG informed members that ISS-HK was serving on average 2,800 new arrivals each month.

33.Miss WONG further briefed members on the following new initiatives taken by ISS-HK and SWD for enhancement of services for new arrivals -

  1. a video for introduction of the various social welfare services available was produced in June 1996 for viewing in offices in government departments and NGOs. Information on welfare services for new arrivals was also included on the hotline run by SWD. Publicity on FSCs and child care centres had also been stepped up;

  2. ISS-HK had acquired additional resources to set up two new centres in Wong Tai Sin and Sham Shui Po to provide post-migration services to new arrivals;

  3. ISS-HK compiled monthly a list of its new clients for the District Social Welfare Officers who would then invite new arrivals on the list to join socialization programmes organized by SWD and NGOs;

  4. the District Service Co-ordinating Committee had been set up to tighten co-operation at the district level amongst SWD, NGOs and HKCSS in rendering assistance to new arrivals;

  5. since October 1996, SWD and NGOs had been collecting statistics to facilitate their analysis of the needs and problems of new arrivals;

  6. based on the report published by HKU after conducting a study on the needs of new arrivals, ISS-HK had strengthened family life education programmes for new arrivals; and

  7. a $1.25 million donation had been obtained from the Standard Chartered Community Foundation for launching a two-year project called " Creation of a New Home in Hong Kong " targetting at new arrival children.

34.Miss CHAN Yuen-han noted that there had been a continuing shortage of child care centre places to meet demand. She asked what action the Administration would take as the shortage problem would be further aggravated by the new demands created by new arrivals. In response, Mrs Patricia CHU explained that the Administration was also concerned about the shortage problem and was committed to improve the child care service by increasing the number of places in day nurseries and day creches. As the problem could not be solved without the concerted efforts of various policy bureaux and government departments, a Steering Committee on New Arrivals had been set up under the chairmanship of the Director of Home Affairs to centrally assess and advise on the overall provisions of required services for new arrivals. Mrs CHU took the view that with the passage of the Child Care Centre (Amendment) Bill in May 1997, the shortage problem of child care centres would be improved. Mrs CHU added that a major hurdle in the provision of more child care centre places was the inavailability of suitable premises. To provide alternative modes of child care service and at the same time combat the problem of children being left unattended at home, the Child Care Centre (Amendment) Bill 1996 was enacted to provide, inter alia, a certificate arrangement for child minders and an exception arrangement to facilitate the formation of mutual help child care groups by interested organisations.

35.Miss CHAN suggested the Administration to consider organizing those unemployed female residents in public housing estates to provide child care service in a bid to relieve the shortage problem. She reiterated that the Administration should explore new formats in providing child care service. The Chairman shared Miss CHAN's view and requested the Administration to provide information on shortages of placements in relation to child care service. The Chairman also requested the Administration to collect statistics on the success rate of new arrivals in finding jobs through the Labour Department. Miss Theresa WONG agreed to consider the request.Adm


36.The Chairman concluded by stating that the Administration should provide a paper setting out its responses to members' views expressed at the meeting and providing the information requested by members. Adm

VIII.Findings of the research on runaway youth and juvenile gangs (Paper No. CB(2)285(05))

37.Due to running out of time, members agreed to defer the item to the next meeting.

38.The meeting ended at 12:55 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
10 November 1997