Press Release



Speech by SHW at LegCo Panel on Welfare Services meeting


The following is the speaking note by the Secretary for Health and Welfare, Dr E K Yeoh, at the LegCo Panel on Welfare Services meeting today (Thursday):


Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

2. Last week, the Chief Executive Mr. Tung Chee Hwa promulgated his third Policy Address. As a follow-up, I am glad to have today's opportunity to explain to you our plans for welfare services next year.

Review of Progress 1999-2000


3. Last year, we made 38 pledges to improve our elderly services. I am pleased to report that good progress is being made in implementing them. We have completed action on 11 pledges and are making steady progress on the remaining ones. On the whole, main achievements in the past year include :

* Commissioning of over 3,500 subsidized residential care places for the elderly, including 1,300 places purchased from the private sector. We have shortened the waiting time for care-and-attention places to an average of 18 months;

* Launching of pilot schemes to provide dementia units at some care-and-attention homes and day care centres for the elderly;

* Increasing the number of licensed private residential care homes from 41 to 242; and

* Re-engineering of the home help service and launching of pilot projects to provide enhanced home care services to the elderly living at home.

Other Welfare Services

4. Thirty-four individual targets were set last year. Action has been completed for 22 and the remaining 12 are progressing on schedule. Significant achievements in the past year include:-

* Introduction of a new Service Performance Monitoring system within the Social Welfare Department which will also apply to all subvented NGOs;

* Establishment of the Guardianship Board;

* Publication of the Rehabilitation Programme Plan;

* Completion of the Review of the Community Rehabilitation Network; and

* Provision of 400 additional day and residential places for the disabled, over 1,300 new child-care centre places, 26 family service centre social workers, 16 child protection workers, 14 additional school social worker units etc.

Work Plan for the Coming Year

5. As regards our work next year, I wish to highlight the following :

Support for Elderly Living at Home

6. We are providing a range of care and support and recreational activities to the elderly living at home through home help teams, day care centres, multi-service centres and social centres for the elderly. These services at present are fragmented. We will conduct a comprehensive review of these elderly services with a view to identifying the best way to provide care and support services to the elderly living at home.

Increasing the supply of residential care places

7. The waiting time for admission into care-and-attention home has been an issue of concern to the public. Between 1999/2000 to 2001/2002, we expect to provide an additional 4,500 residential care places of various types, so that we can keep the waiting time relatively short. Besides, we have secured the cooperation of the Housing Authority, the Land Development Corporation, MTRC and KCRC to provide premises for more than 14,000 places in the coming 9 years.

Improving the service quality of residential care homes

8. To improve the quality of our residential care service, we plan to strengthen staff training. The Health and Welfare Bureau and the Social Welfare Department are working with training institutions concerned and we will put forward our proposals to the Government within this financial year.

Gatekeeping Mechanism

9. To ensure that our elderly will receive care services according to their needs, we should assess the care needs of the elderly objectively and accurately. We are putting in place a more objective system which is expected to commence operation in early 2000/2001. We hope that the introduction of this system will help target our valuable resources to elderly in need of care.

Active Aging

10. The majority of the elderly people would like to lead an active and meaningful life in their golden years. In this respect, the Social Welfare Department, Education Department and voluntary organizations have been providing a range of continuing education courses, social and recreational activities for the elderly. Through social networking, we have recruited several thousand elderly people as volunteers to visit vulnerable elderly people. Building on the momentum of the International Year of Older Persons, we plan to strengthen our work in this Key Result Area in the coming years.

Review of the Welfare Subvention System

11. In the current economic climate, there is perhaps an even greater need to ensure that welfare services are delivered to those members of our community in need in the most cost-effectiveness manner. Consequently, we must satisfy the community that:-

* welfare services being provided are still meeting their essential needs;

* the services are being delivered in the most efficient and cost effective manner; and

* our existing and limited resources are deployed to meet today's needs.

12. The objectives of the Review must be enhance accountability to the community, improve efficiency and quality of service provided, facilitate re-deployment of resources to meet changing community needs and to encourage innovation in the delivery of welfare services.

13. Whilst, a promising start has been made in introducing fundamental changes to the system, such as Service Quality Standards and the Funding and Services Agreement, more needs to be done. All involved agree that the present subvention system is too inflexible and the focus of Government's attention should be changed away from input to output monitoring.

14. Specific proposals will be discussed with welfare agencies later this year.

Family Education

15. The Chief Executive said in his Policy Address that additional resources would be provided for this purpose. I am pleased to announce that $10 million will be allocated over the next 2 years for this purpose. Our focus will be to help strengthen the functioning and problem-solving abilities of families at risk and the development of parenting skills.

Welfare Service Expansion

16. Notwithstanding the present economic climate, Government will continue to fund additional service provision. In the next financial year, examples include 300 child-care centre places, over 600 day and residential places for the disabled, 7 child protection workers and 12 school social worker units. In conclusion, the Government remains firmly committed to helping those members of our community in need.

Concluding Remark

17. Although Hong Kong's economy is only beginning to turn around, we are continuing to make relentless efforts to improve our elderly and welfare services. Where possible and necessary, we continue to inject additional resources to provide new or additional services. On the other hand, we have initiated action to re-engineer existing services so that we can make the best use of our limited resources. To achieve the desired results, we need the support of other sectors and organizations and interested members of the public. We must continue to work together for the benefit of our elderly.

18. Questions are welcomed.

End/Thursday, October 14, 1999