Hong Kong has been facing great challenges in meeting the ever changing needs of our community. We anticipate even more challenges ahead as a result of the increasingly complex social problems arising from the rapidly changing socio-economic and demographic scenes. One of the big challenges is that despite Hong Kong being an affluent city, there are still many people who live a hand-to-mouth existence and require our assistance. In this respect, the Government is committed to supporting the needy and building up a caring and harmonious society. This is also the mission and responsibility of our Department.
For the past two years, we have implemented various social welfare policies and services on a full and hectic schedule. Achievements in 2011-12 and 2012-13 in various service areas exemplify our mission of building a caring and harmonious society.
In 2012, the Government reinstated the Commission on Poverty (CoP), which is underpinned by six Task Forces to combat poverty. We actively participated in the work of CoP and its Task Forces to help conceive new initiatives to prevent and alleviate poverty. We also administered six assistance programmes under the Community Care Fund to provide assistance for people facing financial difficulties, in particular those who fell outside the social safety net or those within the safety net but with special circumstances not covered by the safety net.
Ageing in Place
Our population is ageing rapidly. The number of elderly persons aged 65 or above is expected to grow up to 2.1 million by 2030, representing 25% of the whole population. Guided by the cornerstone principle of “ageing in place”, we enhanced the physical settings and facilities of elderly centres across the territory. We also increased day care places in the conventional funding mode and extended the service hours of new day care centres for the elderly.
In September 2013, we launched the Pilot Scheme on Community Care Service Voucher for the Elderly such that eligible elderly persons may choose the services that suit their needs with the use of service vouchers.
We brought various improvements to our social security system. We raised the standard rates for adult Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients aged below 60 with disabilities or in ill-health with effect from 1 August 2011 and introduced Residential Care Supplement for CSSA recipients aged 60 or above as well as recipients with disabilities or in ill health of any age, who occupied non-subsidised residential care places with effect from 1 June 2012. Attaching great importance to promoting the welfare-to-work policy, we implemented the Integrated Employment Assistance Programme for Self-reliance to strengthen support for employable able-bodied CSSA recipients to become self-reliant. We also took forward the preparatory work full steam ahead for launching the new Old Age Living Allowance (OALA) in April 2013. OALA provides eligible elderly persons with a cash allowance of $2,200 per month as an additional form of financial support for needy elderly persons to supplement their living expenses.
We increased the manpower of school social work service in secondary schools by 20% to help prevent and tackle student drug abuse and related problems. We also launched three pilot cyber youth outreaching projects to reach out through the Internet to young persons in need, particularly those identified as at-risk or hidden.
Other Measures Supporting the Underprivileged and the Disadvantaged
We also took the following measures to enhance the support to the underprivileged and the disadvantaged:
enhanced the service of the five Short-term Food Assistance Service Projects with the provision of food and hot meal coupons;
regularised and extended the Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project to all 18 districts and set up four new Integrated Family Service Centres, including three operated by non-governmental organisations and one operated by our Department;
regularised the service of the Transitional Care and Support Centre for Tetraplegic Patients and implemented the financial incentive scheme for workplace mentors of employees with disabilities to facilitate persons with disabilities to adapt to work smoothly;
injected $100 million into the “Enhancing Employment of People with Disabilities through Small Enterprise” Project and extended the maximum funding period for individual businesses from two to three years;
implemented a licensing scheme under the Residential Care Homes (Persons with Disabilities) Ordinance to ensure that services of residential care homes for persons with disabilities meet the statutory requirements; and
strengthened the manpower of Integrated Community Centres for Mental Wellness to serve more persons in need of community mental health support services.
The above is by no means exhaustive. The Government’s commitment to supporting the needy is reflected in its huge and ever-increasing expenditure on social welfare. In the 2012-13 Revised Estimate, the total recurrent government expenditure on social welfare reached $42.7 billion, taking up 16.2% of the total recurrent government expenditure and ranking the third amongst various policy areas. In comparison with the total actual recurrent government expenditure on social welfare in 2010-11 ($37.6 billion), there was an increase of 13.6%.
Looking forward, we will keep up what has been achieved and make ongoing improvements to our social welfare services. We will also strive to forge partnerships with other government departments, the welfare sector, the business sector and the public at large in providing the people of Hong Kong with professional, quality and sustainable social welfare services to meet their service needs, and in building up a caring and harmonious society.
Ms Carol YIP, JP
Director of Social Welfare