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Speech by SHWF at LegCo Panel Meeting on Welfare Services


Following is the speech (English translation) on the policy initiatives of the Policy Address 2004 by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, at the meeting of the Panel on Welfare Services in the Legislative Council today (January 9):

Madam Chairman,

The paper on the relevant policy initiatives has been tabled and I will not repeat them here. I would like to talk about how to apply the concept of "social capital" in our social welfare policy area.

Our mission has always been to build a caring and healthy society. In our future, we see a community celebrating its rich diversity and recognising the different strengths of each individual.

While the education sector serves as a primary pillar in developing the potential of individuals, the welfare and health sectors play a critical complementary role, facilitating physical and psychological well-being and enhancing the life skills which not only enable us to cope with adverse circumstances but also support the development of our full potential. We need to ensure that the services that we are providing or supporting are in fact investing in individuals, families and the community to enhance their capacity to cope with adversity, and seek to maximise individual strengths, promote self-reliance and self-betterment. Such social investment aims at reducing personal and social costs. It should, for example, help individuals to participate economically and socially and become full members of society instead of descending into a downward adversity cycle. It is the effective means to lift individuals out of their plight.

Government efforts alone have never been and can never be adequate in building up this social capacity. Partnership between government, the business community and the Third Sector (not-for-profit) is crucial. In the coming year, we need to put greater efforts into building this tripartite partnership. The seeds for such partnership have been sown by initiatives in the social welfare sector to encourage volunteerism and business sector participation and when we first set up the Community Investment and Inclusion Fund in 2002. The Fund has been operating effectively in the past year in mobilising local resources and drawing together different facets of the community in joint efforts to build up social capital. I can see scope for furthering such good work. In consultation with the Social Welfare Advisory Committee and the Community Investment and Inclusion Fund Committee, I will examine how best to further develop this tripartite partnership, consolidate and facilitate the work of these initiators, with a view to having these concepts take root in the community. In particular, I will encourage greater involvement from the business, corporate and professional sectors to partner with the Government and the Third Sector in furthering their corporate social responsibilities. We aim to foster firm and trusting partnerships between Government, the Third Sector and the business community for our social good. After all, capacity building and partnership work not only for individuals, they are essential ingredients for the sustainable development of communities: what is good for the community is also good for business.

Madam Chairman, the paper has listed other initiatives and I will not repeat them here.

Ends/Friday, January 9, 2004


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