Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Welfare Services

Social Welfare White Paper


This paper sets out the Administration's initial views on Members’ suggestion that a new White Paper on Social Welfare Development should be prepared.


White Paper on Social Welfare Development

2. The Administration has published three White Papers (in 1973, 1979 and 1991) setting out policies and objectives governing the provision and further development of social welfare services in Hong Kong. The last White Paper, published in March 1991 entitled "Social Welfare into the 1990s and Beyond", is a comprehensive policy document on our overall philosophy on the provision of social welfare services. It outlines the respective roles of government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the delivery of these welfare services. The White Paper sets out the objectives and broad direction for future growth in social welfare services in five areas:

  • family and child care;
  • children and youth;
  • elderly;
  • social security; and
  • support services (including financing of welfare services, social welfare manpower planning and training).

3. This has provided, and continues to provide, a solid basis for us to develop our welfare services. On specific targets of service development, the 1991 White Paper includes, for example, the expansion of family aide service; improvement to the manning ratio of school social workers, provision of additional places in residential care homes for the elderly and improvements to the Comprehensive Social Assistance Scheme.

4. As regards new directions and approaches in service delivery, the White Paper underlines the need to improve the co-ordination of social welfare services with those services provided by other departments and organisations; and the importance of achieving a higher degree of service integration. All of these concepts remain valid today and are being actively pursued.

Five Year Plan for Social Welfare Development

5. We regularly update our welfare policies and programme targets to meet the changing needs of the community through the Five Year Plan Review. This also sets out the detailed implementation plan for achieving the targets specified in the White Paper. The Five Year Plan is reviewed biennially by Social Welfare Department, in collaboration with the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, under the auspices of the Social Welfare Advisory Committee. Regular mid-term meetings are held to monitor progress. The regular review mechanism serves to assess the extent to which services are effectively meeting the respective policy objectives, monitor the progress of the implementation of agreed plans for service development, determine specific targets associated with the expansion of each service over a five year period, and identify possible areas for change and improvement to the effective delivery of services. This document shows the extent to which the White Paper policy objectives relating to the various services have been achieved and sets specific targets for further expansion within the White Paper framework. This mechanism continues to serve us well as policy objectives and programme details are continuously reviewed.

Implementation of White Paper Targets and Objectives

6. Since the publication of the 1991 White Paper, two major Five Year Plan reviews have been conducted, in 1993 and 1995. The two Five Year Plans have set out schedules of implementing various service targets and these are updated regularly in each review. By the end of 1997, most of the targets pledged in the 1991 White Paper have been satisfactorily accomplished. The 1997 review has been completed and is being updated to take account of the recently announced population projections.

New Policy Initiatives and New Service Target

7. The 1991 White Paper has proven to be a forward looking policy document which has provided a clear direction for major social welfare developments throughout these years. Policy development is a continuous process responding to the changing needs of the community. Over the past six years, social welfare has undergone significant development. We have undertaken several major reviews into different aspects of welfare policies which have resulted in new initiatives with a long term impact on service provision, both in terms of quantity and quality. Major exercises have included:-

  • Review of the Comprehensive Social Security Scheme in 1995 (another review is now underway);

  • Consultancy study on the needs of the elderly and the establishment of a central waiting list for elderly homes;

  • the review of Children and Youth Centre Services and the subsequent evaluation of Children and Youth Centres and Integrated Teams;

  • Review on Day Creche Service and Family Life Education service; and

  • the Consultancy Study on Social Welfare Subvention commissioned in March 1995.

The Five Year Plan as a Consolidated Document of Welfare Policy

8. As a result of these reviews, we update our targets as envisaged in the 1991 White Paper, by consolidating them into the Five Year Plan. In addition, we have also made use of the Five Year Plan review exercises to re-examine the basic assumptions and projections of service demand. Adjustments to targets are necessary to take into account changes in population, service demand and priorities, actual constraints experienced, and unforeseen slippages of projects. New policy initiatives (with or without additional resource implications) are announced in the Chief Executive's policy address and incorporated into the Five Year Plan so that they come under the same mechanism for review and monitoring. Seen from this perspective, the Five Year Plan serves as an on-going, forward-looking plan on welfare services.

New Directions and Work Approaches for Future Service Development

9. The 1991 White Paper envisaged an increased emphasis on seeing and developing the family as a unit, children and youth at risk and improving services for the elderly. These, together with greater use of integrated delivery of services, remain our prime objectives for the coming few years.

10. The 1991 White Paper also stressed the need to improve co-ordination of social welfare service given the wealth of social services provided by other departments and organisations. Service interfacing has, in recent years, been a subject of active discussion. In youth service, the Working Group on Services for Youth at Risk, local committees, and integrated teams are good examples of adopting a more multi-disciplinary approach in identifying service needs, and in co-ordinating the delivery of different services to tackle the problems of young people in the most effective manner. There has also been suggestions for better co-ordination between the Department of Health, Hospital Authority, Housing Department and the welfare sector in the provision of services for the elderly. We believe such service interfacing will be another mainstream trend in the future development of welfare services. This demonstrates that the Administration continuously strives to build on the key principles and objectives laid down in the 1991 White Paper.


11. The 1991 White Paper has provided a robust framework for the provision of welfare services, whilst laying down the overall philosophy and broad direction for the future development of social welfare. The principles and policy objectives remain valid and continue to serve as the basis for future service development. Detailed target implementation and new policy initiatives in pursuit of the broad aims of the 1991 White Paper are regularly reviewed, monitored and updated in the context of the Five Year Plan review exercises with the close involvement and participation of the welfare sector.

12. The present mechanism, which includes regular dialogue with the sector and numerous advisory committees and working groups tasked to study specific issues, continues to work well using the broad directors and policies set out in the 1991 White Paper. As such, we do not see an immediate need to prepare a new White Paper at this stage.

Advice Sought

13. Members are requested to note the contents of this paper.

Health and Welfare Bureau
March 1998